Precariously Striped: The importance of corridors for tigers in Maharashtra’s Sahyadri-Konkan region
Very little is known about tiger density or occupancy in the Western Ghats region of Maharashtra, even though a tiger reserve (Sahyadri TR) was notified recently (2010) in the landscape. With support from two CEPF-ATREE* Small Grants, we have now understood the occupancy of tigers in a 7000 km2 landscape stretching from Sahyadri Tiger Reserve up to the border of Goa and Karnataka states. Using robust tools for occupancy and corridor modelling, areas which have high occupancy of tigers, as well as areas that are important pinch-points in the corridor have been identified. Key findings from these two projects reveal that tiger occupancy is much higher in the Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary and Tillari dam catchment and that the corridor connecting these regions to Sahyadri Tiger Reserve is crucial for tiger dispersal. Important threats that can break this corridor include newly proposed wind farms, mining, dam projects, hill stations, and highways.
This report was published by Girish Arjun Punjabi, Advait Edgaonkar and Jayant Kulkarni.
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In the months of May-June 2014, the Sahyadri corridor project did a collaborative camera-trapping activity outside protected areas with the Maharashtra Forest Department (Territorial wing of Kolhapur circle). This activity was only possible due to the efforts of M.K. Rao, Chief Conservator of Forests (Territorial), Kolhapur. He was able to purchase white-flash camera-traps (Moultrie 880C) which were distributed in six ranges of Kolhapur circle. These included Patne, Chandgad, Dodamarg, Amboli, and Ajara ranges in Kolhapur division, and Mahabaleshwar range in Satara division.
Girish took training sessions for each range so as to help the staff deploy camera-traps at appropriate locations to gather evidence of large carnivores, herbivores, and other wildlife. This activity was extremely fruitful as we found tigers, leopards, dholes, elephants, many small carnivores, and several herbivore species in some of these ranges. Interestingly, many camera-traps which were placed near water-holes also collected evidence of some amazing bird species, such as the Nilgiri wood pigeon, Malabar whistling thrush, emerald dove, and even the Malayan night heron! Rain played spoilsport in some cases but did not dampen our spirits till the end. Unfortunately, a few camera-traps were stolen during this activity, and were able to retrieve only one, that too in a damaged state.
Another positive of using camera-traps for monitoring was that we were able to photograph not just wildlife, but even poachers in one area of Dodamarg. The poachers, who were locals from the area, had waited right in front of one camera-trap. They never realized that their pictures were being clicked, and these photos have been used as hard evidence in a case against them, after we intercepted them with sambar meat. Such was the impact of this short two-month activity that the department plans to make it a regular affair!
The Sahyadri-Konkan corridor is under tremendous pressure from large-scale development projects which could cause further fragmentation and degradation of large carnivore habitat. With this in mind, a one-day workshop was organised in Amboli on the 18th of July 2014 (funded by CEPF-ATREE), in collaboration with Malabar Nature Conservation Club, Amboli, to bring together a network of various stakeholders from the region. The workshop was attended by 16 participants comprising of researchers, environmentalists, the honorary warden of Kolhapur, environmental lawyers, and members of different NGOs working in various parts of Sindhudurg and Kolhapur districts on issues related to conservation of wildlife, biodiversity, and issues of people’s rights.
Presentations about large carnivore distribution in this region, important pinch-points in the corridor, activities of eRc India and how it can help keep a check on on-going and proposed projects were given during this workshop.
At the end of the workshop it was decided to focus on the corridor connecting Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra to Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa. As a result of this workshop, a closed facebook group was also formed where various issues regarding conservation of this region are discussed (facebook link).
The workshop was held in Green Valley and participants were provided accommodation at Whistling Woods in Amboli.
The Sahyadri corridor project
This blog is about activities from the Sahyadri corridor project. The blog aims to share our experiences, hopes, achievements, and frustrations while trying to thoughtfully conserve the northern Sahyadris. Do share your comments..