Jayashankar Bhupalpally: After more than a decade, a tigress was reportedly spotted by some people near Azamnagar village in Bhupalpally mandal in the district. The last sighting of a tiger in Mahadevpur forest area in erstwhile Karimnagar district was in 2002, while a tiger was also sighted in Rampur forest area under Pakhal Wildlife Sanctuary in erstwhile Warangal district in 2009.
While the sighting of the tigress on Saturday by locals comes as an exciting development for forest officials, people of villages located in the Pegadapally forest range are in the grip of fear as the tigress reportedly killed a cow at Nimmagudem village.
The pug marks of the tigress were found on a path from Azam Nagar to Yamanpally villages in Mahamutharam madnal. Forest officials suspect that the tigress had come from either Indravati Tiger Reserve in Chattisgarh or from Tadoba Tiger Reserve of Maharashtra or the Kawal Tiger Reserve in Adilabad a couple of months ago as some locals told the forest officials they had spotted a tiger near Tekulagudem forest area.
“Due to floods, it may have stranded in the thick forests of Nimmagudem which has good prey population. Our staff have taken the measurements of the pug marks and we believe it is a tigress,” District Forest Officer (DFO) K Purushotham told Telangana Today. Some officials, however, suspect that the pug marks were that of a leopard.
Meanwhile, the forest officials have alerted villagers in the forest area to be cautious and take steps to protect their cattle too. They have also warned traditional hunters and poachers not to lay electric fencing or snares for wild animals as the tigress may fall for the traps. Officials are also trying to set up some camera traps in the forest areas hoping that the movement of the tigress can be captured in the cameras.
It may be mentioned that forest authorities of the erstwhile Warangal district had made a proposal for declaring the Eturnagaram Wildlife Sanctuary and its surroundings as a tiger reserve. Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF), Warangal M J Akbar also made efforts to this effect and a detailed project report (DPR) was also prepared to be submitted to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
The forest is a dry deciduous teak and riverine forest with low hills on the banks of river Godavari and is home to the largest Gaur and deer population in the State. However, the Gotti Koyas, also known as Muria Gonds, who settled down in hutments in the forest areas of the Eturnagaram Wildlife Sanctuary after fleeing the strife-torn Chhattisgarh, are blamed for the decrease in prey population as they still depend on hunting to meet their food needs and felling the trees for the podu cultivation.
According to the official reports, an area of 6.66 sq km of forest has been damaged in Warangal. However, it seems that there is no accurate information about the deforestation by the Gotti Koyas. “We have been making efforts to relocate the Gotti Koyas and discourage them from hunting,” said a forest official, who played a key role in the preparation of the proposal for the tiger reserve. The declaration of the Tiger Reserve will help get huge funds, and setting up Eturunagaram Tiger Reserve could be a decisive move to protect the big cats in the State.
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