Forest department wants private mines in Kolhapur shut to facilitate tiger movement

Around seven bauxite mines sit on the corridor linking Chandoli National Park to Radhanagari.

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Forest department wants private mines in Kolhapur shut to facilitate tiger movement
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To help migration of tigers in the Western Ghats landscape, state forest department officials are seeking that private mines in Kolhapur, which affect the movement of big cats between the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve and Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary, be closed. The department will also demarcate a corridor from the Radhanagari sanctuary to Tillari in Sindhudurg to aid movement of these big cats.

A senior forest official said the presence of around seven bauxite mines in Shahuwadi taluka, through which the corridor linking the Chandoli National Park to Radhanagari passes, was impeding tiger movement. The Sahyadri reserve is spread over two protected areas of Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary and the Chandoli National Park, and spans Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and parts of Ratnagiri.

The official added that the mines were "the real bottleneck" for the movement of tigers from down south to repopulate the tiger reserve, which lacks a strong resident tiger population.

"We will write to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) with a copy to the district collector to do the needful as per the provisions of the law," he said, adding that the NTCA would then write to the state government, which would issue instructions to the district collector to do the needful.

"These mines must be shut down if tigers are to populate the Sahyadri reserve," said another forest official, adding that these extraction sites were bang on the corridor.

The department has proposed that the Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary in Kolhapur be linked to the Sahyadri reserve as its "satellite core". It will enhance the protection status of the area and develop the habitat for tigers.

The number of tigers in the Sahyadri reserve is low as the big cats do not breed there due to problems like poor prey base in the Koyna sanctuary and weak links in the corridor connecting the reserve with the source population down south.

"A five-member committee has been formed under divisional forest officer (DFO) SL Zure to demarcate a corridor from Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary to Tillari," said an official, adding that it would have a month to complete its work.

The state is planning to declare a 26sqkm patch of evergreen forests at Tillari in the Konkan as a wildlife sanctuary to develop it as a tiger habitat and corridor. The area in Sindhudurg, which is nestled in the Western Ghats on the cusp of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, can be used to develop the source tiger population for the Sahyadri reserve, which has just around seven tigers.

The tiger population in the Sahyadri reserve is connected with the source population down south in Goa and Karnataka through the Radhanagari sanctuary and Western Ghat ridges, and a developed corridor will ensure tiger movement to the sanctuary. Tillari falls in the corridor connecting the reserve to the source population and its development as a tiger habitat will help the larger programme to repopulate the Sahyadri.

It will help in the long-term conservation of the Western Ghats region and allow tigers to move around in the buffer of the Sahyadri reserve and the corridor, apart from Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary (North Goa) and Bhimgad (Karnataka).

The authorities are planning to tentatively translocate six animals (four females and two males) to the Sahyadri reserve from Chandrapur in Vidarbha.

Maharashtra has six tiger reserves. The tiger census, results for which were released in 2014, says that India has 2226 tigers, up from 1706 in 2010. Maharashtra has around 190 big cats, 21 more than their number in 2010.

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