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Conserving India's Wildlife - A case study - Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary.
wildlife in her luxuriant, though fast depleting forests. The two factors that playa major role in conserving India's biological diversity are its rich tradition of nature conservation and the presence of some Key stone species which require a large and vaned ecosystem. But it is unfortunate that what used to be large contiguous forests are now fast bec-oming smaller pockets, fragmented islands that
K,Surrndra Varman and Archana Dange of Indian Institute of Science NDIAtoday supports a large variety of s_upport ~1.a11 populationa.isolated from each other.
However, in these fragmented, but resource rich and well protected habitats, animal populations are increasing and key stone species are under constant threat because of insufficient area available to them. This problem of inadequate area, has lead to a serious conflict between man and animal and if this biological war continues, this would result in extermination of key stone species. Ecological
to the carnivores in the forest or other reasons) is costlier than loss of the scrub cattle. The alternative to the 120 crore PUSHEP would be a low - cost renovation/up gradation of the existing Singara powerhouse. This may halt the power generation for some time, but in the long run would serve to reduce the pressure on this fragile ecosystern.. This will necessitate the cooperation of the electricity board. Young tress are considered as indicators of a healthy forest ecosystem and fire is known to be condusive to tree growth. Controlling forest fire is good forest management practice, but if the fires are controlled for over a period of time, it results in the excessive accumulation of dry biomass which is ready fuel for accidental or natural fire, serving to spread the fire rapidly causing unimaginable damage to the forest system. Controlled burning during non - fire season may help to solve this problem, butattimes, this technique has been known to fail as well, Looking at the alternatives and problems associated with them, it appears that conserving biological treasures like Mudumalai is a losing battle. Mudumalai is a treasure house of biological
diversity and.has to be conserved also because of the many unknown natural phenomena, scientific, biological...ecological behavioral, ethical, economical and aesthetic values that are to be preserved for the future. The best way to preserve forests like Mudumalai is to conform to the large area conserva tion concept, especially because Mudumalai, Bandipur and Wynad forests are seasonal forest resulting in seasonality in the resource availability because of which animals migrate from one part of the forest to another. Secondly in these fragmented, well protected areas, the population of large mammals are increasing remarkably and this produces surpluses. This surplus is confronted with human disturbances which create conflict between man and animal, So connecting all these fragmented, well protected, isolated areas will provide a large area for animal populations. Thus, this large area conservation concept aims to reduce human encroachment on what is rightfully animal area. Not only will this make free the migratory paths, food and other resources.butwill also sol ve the man - animal conflict
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thirst. During our walk through this shola, we discovered. an ancient fireplace with stones deeply e:t,nbedded in the soil. My Toda friends,. to demonstrate its antiquity, dug for a considerable depth" only to find ash and carbon residue. This they said was where the departing spirits cook their meal. The spirit, now refreshed, walks faster through a terrain consisting of grassland now mixed v.:ith planted species of wattle, pinus and blue gum, as wen as original shola forests of fairly large size. We came across several sambar deer and some jackal;; here. He finally reaches a large grassy swamp where, close to a stream lies a large flat stone (Tarshvol karsh) that had been split into two, supposedly by a knife blowadministered by a departing spirit, to symbolise that half the stone represents the atterwodd, while the other belongs to the present world. Possibly, other spirits place the lame that was burned at their funerals into the crevice, before removing it and moving on (the knife has to be used later). While the spirit performs this ritual his relatives in the present world, using a similar knife, will cut their hair.lt is also related to the-traditioaal , . hair-cutting cel'emony of a young child. The spirit then descends downstream to reach a. spot where a rocky pit closely resembling a mortar and filled with swirling stream water is reached (Waskonskwadr) .. Here, the female spirit pounds grain using the pestle that was burned at her funeral. The male spiri. t has his OvVTl exclusive rituals with his knife. The spirit is now close to one of the highest peaks in the Nilgiris, Devabetta (Kawnteo in Toda, representing the abode of one of their deities: Kawn) and the salutes the hill in the unique Toda fashion before moving on. He now tums to the right and descends to reach the landmark of Parpashnbem, a larg-e grassy slope that has now sadly been obliterated by a thick plantation of wattle trees. No doubt, the departing spirits of the recent past do not s top here to rest as they rarely find any available open grassy space. The next important Iandmark, at a lower elevation, is a large swamp called Keenyter, which too has elisappeared due to the flooding of the wa tars in the Lakkidi area of the Upper Bhavani reservoir. The spirit then crosses the water to reach an area not far from the last westerly hamlet of Kwershy (KoIlimund in local badaga dialect). He still has a long journey ahead and the trudges along, no doubt inhibited by the manmade tree plantations. In the past when the Todas were the dominant tribe of the upper Nilgiris, their numerous buffaloes would be brought here to graze d uring the dry season. Now much of the grazing lands have been lost to exotic trees and those areas which still comprise htI'ge tracts of grassland, come under the.Mukurti National Park and hence are closed to the original inhabitants. After an arduous trek, the spirit finally reaches the place where be gets a long. rest. This is the area of fireplaces or Kojkocbem, where according to the - Todas, the ancient fireplacespresent, will be warm if visited a few days after afunerai.Traditionally, when the Todas.had two funerals, the .spirit stayed here until the second (dry) funeral was performed several months later. Now that both funerals have been incorporated into one, it is a rnatter of conjecture amongst the Todas Whether this. ritual is sufficient to. allow the spirit to reach the afterworld. In all likelihood, the contemporary spiri t moves on after a quick meal to reach a large sickly smelling rock where flies are constantly buzz ing - Ponyupykarsh (lit;hanfling over sickness rock), at which the diseases of the PJ:evio~s world are Ic4t be~d. No Toda would willingly like to visit this ~e~. dul':ir"\ghis lifetime, He now .descends and walks on for a distance to reach a swamp close to c<l stream where an isolated vertical stone stands rather obscurely. Here, be bends down and with his chest "touches this stone, Nizmuttkarsh (lit: rock where the chest is touched), thus forgethug all worldly attachments, especially love. He is now dose to the UpP'\'lr Bhavani dam and he crosses a hill, goes up another, very close to the dam site, ana again descend·s into a shola thicket where he-marks one of the Maayn trees tCinnamomum .wighlit) using the knife b~ed ati-us funeral. Todas will tell YDU of numerous rnstances when after a funeral, Toda honey-gathe~e~"$' would find one of these trees freshly marked with a knife. This landmark is called Kotyarrnvilz (path through a shola w:here the Maayn tree is marked). He is now within the Dangitappal area of the Mukurti National Park and much of the terrain is like it must have always been, mainly because tree plantations have failed thanks to the extreme cold and strong wind. The extensive grasslands, with the sholas in the galleries present a breathtaking sight. Glimpsing a tiger is a not an uncommon occurrence and sambars are also plentiful. During our walk here, fresh elephant dung indicated their presence. During the dry summer months, some herds of elephants may move y!' frQIli the Silent Valley or Nilambur forests to the upper Nilgiris, The tired spirit is now on the last leg of his journey, keen no doubt to reach the afterworld and meet all his relatives there. This last lap is also the most arduous especially if he has to walk in the
studies have shown that extermination of these keystone species from a healthy environment will have serious impact on biological diversity. It is thus very important to conserve such species; and in order to do so it is imperative to conned fragmented habitats. These connected large areas will support more species, facilitate better gene flow, help maintain sufficient genetic variability and enable long-term survival of the species.
common langur, sloth bear, dhole (Indian wild. panther, tiger and the elephant. These plants animals form a complex, interdependent interacting system which strengthens the existence of life.
dog), and and very
The Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary situated in the Nilgiris of Tamil Nadu connects to a number of national parks, sanctuaries and reserve forests on its north, west and east. This contiguous tract of forestMudumalai, Bandipur, Wynad and Sigur reserve forest-covers an area of about 3,000 square kilometers. Mudumalai covering an area of 321 square kilometers, encompasses a variety of vegetation from moist deciduous, dry deciduous to
of settlements, private lands in and around the sanctuary, excessive cattle grazing and frequent annual fires are the main threats to the sanctuary, Developmental projects like hydroelectric power projects, buildings that are mushrooming in the name of development, increasing and uncontrolled vehicular movemen t in the heart of the sanctuary threaten to shatter the fragile web of life that co - exists in Mudumalai.
Non Forest Lands
River -r Elephant Movement
260m Deep Gorge
dry thorn forests. Apart from these major types of
forests, Mudumalai has smaller patches of bamboo brakes.semi- evergreen and riparian forests also. Mudumalai is a seasonal forest and looks different each season. During the dry season, most of the trees here shed their lea yes. This is also the time when most trees are in flower, The monsoon showers bring with them leaf initiation and fruiting. This changing mood of the forest elicits a response from the animals that live within. About 31 species of mammals have been reported from here, these include the Indian bison (gaur), sambar, chetal, barking deer, mouse deer,
Bandipur, Wynad and other reserve forests being contiguous, large mammals like elephants wander through the entire range of forests all the year round for fulfilling their water, fodder and other resource needs. Masinagudi, Moyar, Singara, Bokkapuram, Sigur and Annaikatti are settlements that have sprung up on the periphery of . the Mudumalai sanctuary. These settlements and their activities - such as farming and cattle rearing form barriers to the route taken by elephants as they migrate _l from Mudumalai to the
adjoining Sigur reserve forest. The road from Masinagudi to Singara is 7 kilometers long and runs along the Kalhalla water course. TI1e first hundred meters of this stretch, on either side, is classified as private forest land, but one will find that only two kilometers of the seven kilometers between Masinagudi and Singara is free from human settlement and cultivated lands. This two kilometer gap acts as elephant corridor elephant use this gap to migrate from one part of the
contiguous forest to the other in response to the seasonality of the forest, The entire forest area around Bokkapuram village, which is situated in the foot hills of Sigur reserve forest, is now slowly being converted as private lands. A popular Hindi film actor recently purchased 67 acres of land here for promoting wildlife tourism and for cultivation. In fencing this large area, another route of elephant migration from Mudumalai to the foot hill forests has been blocked.
at the animal. Very often these encounters could end in damage to both man and beast. A recent threat to the sanctuary and its adjoining forests, is the proposed plan of opening a new highway be-tween Masinagudi and Bhavani sagar village of Coimbatore district. This proposed area for highway is a very sensitive elephant habitat because, this thorn forest habitat connects the western and eastern ghats elephant population. If this proposed plan is accepted, due to increase in human habitations and other developmental activities, elephant movement between these region will be cut off.
Cattle rearing is prevalent occupation among the forest dwellers, these cattle are raised, not for milk, but for the dung. The cattle ownership ranges from 10 to 200 cattle per person. Each year, a total of 12,000 tons of cattle dung is exported from Masinagudi village alone. The people let their cattle into the forest for grazing and the cowherd gathers all the dung from the forest. This removal of cattle dung is a great nutrient loss for the forest system. Also, these cattle may be carriers of certain diseases that may infect wild animals.
The PUSHEP (Pykara ultimate stage hydroelectric power project) in the Sigur reserve forest aims at upgrading the existing Singara power house. Elephants and other migratory animals are known to depend on the sigur forest for food, water and other resource during the dry season. Construction activities such as mining, blasting, dumping of excavated materials on the hill slopes and human settlements (of the labour force) leads not only to large scale damage of the ecosystem but also to more and more confrontations between humans and wild animals, especially elephants.
Forest fire poses the greate&t threat to bio diversfhr in 'tropical forests. In the dry seasons, friction caused by the rubbing 01 branches of bamboo or other tree species may spark off a fire. Dried grass and leaves that accumulate on the forest floor in this season,' catch fire easily and serve to spread it speedily. The frequent occurrence of fire in Mudumalai and its adjoining forests, wipes out the ground layer and prevents the regeneration of forest. With increase in human intervention in the forest, the incidence of accidental or man made fires is also on the increase.
The sanctuary extends on either side of the Mysore- Ooty highway. The Moyar river, which is the only source of water for the wild animals, especially during dry season, funs along the highway. Animals coming to th.e river have to cross the highway and are greatly disturbed by the constant vehicular traffic, the noise made by the traffic as well by over - eruhusiastic travellers vimo sometimes get out of their vehicles to get a closer took
Keeping in mind the various problems that this Mudumalai forest area has, some alternatives seem obvious solutions, but deeper analyses reveals that each of these alternatives has its own limitations. To reduce the pressure of human population on the sanctuary, reloeating all major settlements seems to be an obvious alternative. This along with converting private lands to forest will not only provide room for free animal movement, but will also reduce man - animal conflict. Some forest dwellers are willing to move out on condition that they be given sufficient quantity of fertile land, but fertile land is more and more difficult to come by. To reduce cattle population and the pressure on the forest due to overgrazing, one may think of introducing hybrid cattle- one high milk yielding variety yields milk equal in amount to that got from four scrub cattle. Besides that, the forest dwellers are more interested in the dung produced by the cattle than the milk yield, this alternative has other limitations as well. Mainta.ip.i.nghybrid cattle is a time consuming job and loss oQtybl1.idcattle (either as prey
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