Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve

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Gorgeous Hills

“Huge hills, green forests filled with ample water, noisy birds, buzzing insects and plenty of deer, the true realm of the striped charm.”

I have always liked to witness the wilderness in true sense, but it is the plight of our modern times that fragmentation is on the rise.

Though Nagarjuna Sagar-Srisailam still possesses vast swatches of forest without human habitations. The forest here are mostly dry, with occasional streams that hold some water. There are traditional waterholes and lakes that also attract animals. Walking long distance in these forests along with my hyticos volunteers have really helped me understand a little about the dynamics that define this wilderness.

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Tiger Pugmarks

The number of deer in comparison to the landscape size is fewer, the tough terrain complimented by  traditional poaching practices may have been a contributing factor.

Chenchus have always been integral to these forests, the APFD have to be applauded for involving them in conservative initiatives. But  I also increasingly feel we need to reassess their mind set, have informal surveys to gauge what the youth have in them. Understanding them and tapping them at inception ensures they wont seek illegal means of incomes that may adversely affect wildlife.

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Pugmarks Collection by staff
The Hills act like forts I feel, the wildlife truly flourishes in deep forests inside these natural forts. Wild grasses are plenty for Sambar and other deer, invariably benefiting Tigers, but it is very in-appropriate to assume the whole NSTR is a Tiger haven. With human habitations like we have in Mannanur Range, it is imperative  that threats like poisoning loom large, as witnessed during the Tiger poisoned in January this year.

Pilgrims who walk through the forests for temple trash the area, if their movement is synchronized in controlled fashion will certainly help evade issues. Certain designated points where pilgrims can halt and what they carry inside the park needs to be regulated, awareness and monitoring them would really help to avoid any mishaps.

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Crested hawk eagle

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Huge Bamboo forests
The base camps of NSTR are equipped with basic necessities and wireless communication, the staff staying in base camps need to be further encouraged to play an active role in monitoring, informing and having a greater role in ensuring Tigers are safe. They are no doubt the front-line guardians of our Tigers.

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Our Team at Forest Base Camp

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Tawny Castor

 

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Natural Grass plots
NSTR forest still represent the best Andhra Pradesh has to offer in terms of well protected forests, but to sustain these forests and to further improve  Tiger protection will require great insight, resolve and effort. Fresh novel approach towards conservation is needed at a war footing. HYTICOS supports science and reason based approaches to reclaim these forests.

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A Vignesha Carving

 

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Pedda Cheruvu
I am not inclined to write in detail about my experiences here, as I am more concerned that these forests remain pristine and free from further human pressure and habitations, I wish Tiger prosper well here and deers thrive in great numbers ,  it is always great to be at Srisailam.. “Gorgeous hills, the mighty Krishna, vast forests, Tigers and Chenchus, our fascination for this forest was once new is now growing old.”

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Chenchu’s Bikes for reaching the Road

Text and Photos by Asif

(Scroll down for Kawal experience by Ashvij)…..

Kawal Tiger Reserve

“Tiger Conservation- To conserve Tiger, conserve its Prey; to conserve Prey, conserve the forest; to conserve the Forest, conserve the Tiger.”

Trail- It is a path/track in the forest, used in the estimation of carnivores like tiger, leopard, Wild Dog, Sloth Bear etc. using indirect signs like scat (faeces or droppings), pug marks (foot prints), scent marks (urine marks), rake marks (scratches on trees), and scrape marks (scratches on the ground); and direct sighting of carnivores.

Transect-It is a sampling method used for estimating the population densities of the principal prey of tigers like deer, antelope, wild boar, gaur etc. using direct sightings of the animal and by indirect signs like pellets (faeces or droppings), hoof marks, shed antlers etc. and mapping the vegetation of a particular forest.

Kawal Tiger Reserve (KTR) is India’s 42nd Tiger reserve and is situated in the Adilabad District of Telangana State. Jannaram, a small town in the district, is the Headquarters of operations for the Kawal Tiger Reserve. Volunteering for HYTICOS (Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society), I had learnt about the All India Tiger, Co-predators and Prey Estimation 2014 to be held in the Kawal Tiger Reserve. I immediately seized the opportunity and set out along with a few more members of HYTICOS, to Jannaram on 17th Jan 2014 to take part in the census.

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Kawal Tiger Reserve, though a protected area has a lot of human disturbance. Major roads connecting Jannaram to Nirmal and Adilabad traverse through the reserve. As we drove through the reserve late that night, we saw three Wild Pigs killed in a road accident. This was disturbing, as we were going there to estimate wildlife populations in the reserve but instead, were welcomed by a rather disappointing sight.

The first morning, we met Mr. Rama Krishna Gubbala, the Divisional Forest Officer of KTR, to discuss  the plan for the wildlife census and various conservation issues in Kawal Tiger Reserve. As we finished our meeting and stepped out of his office, we were greeted by a flock of Black-hooded Golden Orioles. Later that evening two of our team members, Mr.Praveen and Mr.Venkat had been on trails to Mallial beat where they spotted a herd of Sambar Deer and a Sloth Bear. Another team of Mr.Sampat and Ms.Sarada that went to Millara Morri, had spotted few Gray Langur and collected the scat of a leopard.

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Early morning on the second day, Praveen and I, went to walk transect at Kawal beat. Unfortunately, we couldn’t spot any animals other than one Gray Langur. However, we did spot indirect signs of ungulates (hooved animals like deer or antelope) like pellets of Nilgai (Blue Bull) and Chital (Spotted Deer) and the quill, scat and remains of a tree bark eaten by a Porcupine. On the way back we were lucky enough to spot pug marks of a leopard which led us to a water hole. We found Kawal to be a Dry Deciduous Mixed type of forest with trees like Teak, Crocodile Bark Tree and Axlewood tree. One of the other volunteers, Venkat who went for transect to Indanapalli had encountered few Nilgai and Chinkara (Indian Gazelle). Mr. Sampat, who had been to Narlapur beat sighted few Langur and Nilgai apart from indirect signs such as pellets of Sambar deer, Chausingha (Four-Horned Antelope) and Chinkara. After he finished his transect he also spotted three more Chinkara, a Nilgai bull and another herd of 5 Nilgai. That evening, Venkat and I went to Udampur for trail, where we found the scat of a Sloth Bear. Following the trail we went to a nearby lake where we saw various water birds such as Egrets, Cormorant and the Common Sandpiper.

Day 3 started with a herd of 8 Chinkara at Dost Nagar beat even before the start of the transect. This transect was more fruitful as I had seen two herds of Spotted deer, each consisting about 8-10 animals including a few fawn. We also observed lot of fresh and older pellets of Nilgai and Spotted Deer. The forest there was more of a Dry Deciduous forest with Teak being the predominant species. The Forest Beat Officer Mr Shankar, after the transect, invited me to see more of the forest in his beat. He took me deeper into the forest where we did some bird watching. We spotted birds like Rufous Treepie, Plum-headed Parakeets, White-eyed Buzzard and water birds such as Little Ringed Plower, Marsh Sandpiper, Darter, Black Ibis and White-necked Stork. While walking through the forest we saw a lot of pug marks of Jungle Cat and a few scats with pieces of crab in them.

Although the census was supposed to go on for a week, our team had to come back to Hyderabad sooner than expected. The opportunity to walk in a Tiger Reserve and that too in order to help the forest department in an important step towards tiger and wildlife conservation was a very educative and self-satisfying one. With the flora and fauna being so good and conducive for the large cats like the Tiger, I felt sad to learn that there is not even a single Tiger in Kawal Tiger Reserve. We, as wildlife conservationists and activists along with the forest department need to work more strongly towards bringing Tigers back to Kawal. Reducing human intervention into the forests, preventing cattle grazing, preventing poachers from killing wildlife and punishing the wildlife criminals can all help in conserving wildlife better. As I left Kawal, my hunger for walking in the wild may have been satisfied to an extent but the thirst to see a Tiger roaming freely and majestically, without fear of humans in Kawal Tiger Reserve increased exceedingly.

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I will return to Kawal, very soon……

by Asvij Putta