Nagarhole National Park
|Nagarahole Tiger Reserve|
|Area||642.39 km2 (248.03 sq mi)|
This park was declared the 37th Tiger Reserve of India in 1999. It is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The Western Ghats Nilgiri Sub-Cluster of 6,000 km2 (2,300 sq mi), including all of Nagarhole National Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.
The park ranges the foothills of the Western Ghats spreading down the Brahmagiri hills and south towards Kerala state. It lies between the latitudes 12°15'37.69"N and longitudes 76°17'34.4"E. The park covers 643 km2 (248 sq mi) located to the north-west of Bandipur National Park. The Kabini reservoir separates the two parks. Elevations of the park range from 687 to 960 m (2,254 to 3,150 ft). It is 50 km (31 mi) from the major city of Mysore and 220 km (137 mi) from the Karnataka state capital of Bengaluru.
Together with the adjoining Bandipur National Park (870 km2 (340 sq mi)), Mudumalai National Park (320 km2 (120 sq mi)) and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (344 km2 (133 sq mi)), it forms the largest protected area in Southern India, totalling 2,183 km2 (843 sq mi).
Climate and ecology
The park receives an annual rainfall of 1,440 millimetres (57 in). Its water sources include the Lakshmmantirtha river, Sarati Hole, Nagar Hole, Balle Halla, Kabini River, four perennial streams, 47 seasonal streams, four small perennial lakes, 41 artificial tanks, several swamps, Taraka Dam and the Kabini reservoir.
The park derives its name from naga, meaning snake and hole, referring to streams. The park was an exclusive hunting reserve of the kings of the Wodeyar dynasty, the former rulers of the Kingdom of Mysore. It was set up in 1955 as a wildlife sanctuary and later its area increased to 643.39 km (399.78 mi). It was upgraded into a national park in 1988. The park was declared a tiger reserve in 1999.
The vegetation here consists mainly of North Western Ghats moist deciduous forests with teak and rosewood Dalbergia latifolia predominating in the southern parts. There is Central Deccan Plateau dry deciduous forests with Pala indigo and thorny wattle towards the east. There are some sub-montane valley swamp forests with several species of the Eugenia genus.
The main trees are the commercially important rosewood, teak, sandalwood and silver oak. Species of trees of the dry deciduous forest include crocodile bark, Lagerstroemia lanceolata, Indian kino tree "Pterocarpus marsupium, Grewia tilaefolia, rosewood and axlewood Anogeissus latifolia. Species growing in the understorey include Kydia calycina, Indian gooseberry Emblica officinalis and beechwood Gmelina arborea, shrubs like horse nettles Solanum, tick clover, Helicteres species and invasive species like lantana and bonesets. These forests have some conspicuous tree species such as golden shower tree, flame of the forest and clumping bamboo.
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The important predators and carnivores in the park are the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), the Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca), the dhole (Cuon alpinus), the golden jackal (Canis aureus) and the sloth bear (Melursus ursinus).
The great herbivores include the Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus), the gaur (Bos gaurus), the sambar deer (Cervus unicolor), the barking deer (Munitacus muntjak), the chital (Axis axis), the four-horned antelope (Tetracercus quadricornis) and the wild boar (Sus scrofa).
Arboreal mammals includes the gray langur (Presbytes entellus), the bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata), the slender loris (Loris tadigradus), the red giant flying squirrel (Petaurista petaurista), Indian giant flying squirrel (Petaurista philippensis) and the Indian giant squirrel (Ratufa indica).
Small predators include the jungle cat (Felis chaus), the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), the small Indian civet (Viverricula indica), the Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), the Indian grey mongoose (Herpestes edwardsi), the Indian brown mongoose (Herpestes fuscus), the stripe-necked mongoose (Herpestes vitticollis) and the European otter (Lutra lutra).
Other mammals include the chevrotain (Tragulus meminna), the mouse deer, the hare, the black-naped hare (Lepus nigricollis), the Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) and the Indian porcupine (Hystrix indica).
Over 250 species of birds live in Nagarhole National Park. Besides the enormous variety of woodland birds, there are large congregations of waterfowl in the Kabini river. Birds range from the blue-bearded bee-eater and the scarlet minivet to the more common ospreys, herons and ducks.. Recognised as an Important Bird Area, the park has over 270 species of birds, including the 'critically endangered' White-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis), the 'vulnerable' lesser adjutant (Leptopilos javanicus), the greater spotted eagle (Aquila changa) and the Nilgiri wood-pigeon (Columba elphinstonii).
'Near threatened' species like darters (Anhniga melanogaster), the oriental white ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus), the grey headed fish eagle (Icthyophaga ichthyaetus) and the red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) can also be found here. Endemic species include the blue-winged parakeet (Psittacula columboides), the Malabar grey hornbill (Ocyceros griseus), the white-bellied treepie (Dendrocitta leucogastra), the white cheeked barbet (Megalaima viridis), the Indian scimitar babbler (Pomatorhinus horsfieldii), the Malabar trogon (Harpactes fasciatus) and the Malabar whistling thrush (Myiophonus horsfieldii).
More common birds commonly seen in drier regions include the painted bush quail (Perdicula erythrorhyncha), the Sirkeer malkhoa (Phaenicophaeus leschenaultii), the ashy prinia (Prinia socialis), the Indian robin (Copsychus fulicatus), the Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus) and the yellow-footed green pigeon (Treron phoenicoptera).
Reptiles commonly found here are the mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), the common vine snake (Ahaetulla genus), the common wolf snake (Lycodon aulicus), the Indian rat snake (Ptyas mucosus), the bamboo pit viper (Craspedocephalus gramineus), the Russell's viper (Daboia russellii), the common krait (Bangarus caeruleus), the Indian rock python (Python molurus), the Bengal monitor (Varanus bengalensis) and the Asian common toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus).
Extensive studies on the biodiversity of the insect population have been carried out by researchers from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bangalore. The insect biodiversity of this park includes over 96 species of dung beetles and 60 species of ants. Unusual species of ants that have been identified, including the jumping ants such as Harpegnathos saltator, which are known to jump up to a metre high.
The ant species Tetraponera rufonigra may be useful as a marker for the forest health because these ants feed on termites and are abundant in places where there are many dead trees. Indentified dung beetles include the common dung beetle (Onthophagus dama, India's largest beetle), Heliocopris dominus which breeds only in elephant dung and Onthophagus pactolus, a very rare species of dung beetle.
Tribal and native inhabitants
The Jenu Kurubas, primary inhabitants of this forest area, are a tribe in Karnataka state and their traditional practices and rituals are slowly disappearing. The government is restricting their entry inside the National park and forest due to multiple factors including but not limited conservation efforts and bringing the community to the mainstream society.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, identified the Jenu Kuruba and the Koraga as tribal groups in Karnataka. The Jenu Kurubas are traditional food gatherers and honey collectors. In Kannada, the term 'Jenu' means 'honey' and the term 'kuruba' generally mean 'shepherd'. It is derived from the Kannada word 'kuri' which means 'sheep'. The term kuruba is also associated with non-shepherd communities. They speak a variant form of Kannada commonly known as Jenu-nudi within their family kin group, and Kannada with others. They use Kannada script. According to the Census of 1981, the population of Jenu Kuruba community is 34,747 out of which 17,867 are male and 16,880 are female.
The Jenu Kurubas are found scattered in the jungles as with other tribal groups. They are excellent climbers of tree and are skilled in the use of sling, bows and arrows. They demonstrate a strong emotional attachment to the forest as their mother deity and represents a whole way of life. Their food, dress, worship, house, medicine storing articles furniture etc. all are linked with forest. Parts of the tribe which have resisted exposure to modernization still live in thatched huts made of mud, leaves and grass.
The Jenu Kurubas mainly depend on forest for their day-to-day life. They occupy forested regions where for a long period in their history, they lived in isolation but in harmony with nature. They demonstrate significant knowledge of the forest including varied species of flora and fauna and relate to the forest very well. Collecting honey, wax and other forest produce like roots and tubers has been the mainstay of their survival and in recent times they have been found selling them in the market through organized trade groups, both legal and illegal which has led to a furore of angst amongst the conservationists.
Many of the cultural traits they have are common with the neighbouring tribes such as Betta Kuruba / Kadu Kuruba. In the forest the tribes also practice agriculture, the main crops grown are ragi, cow gram, Bengal gram, horse gram and black gram.
A lot of commercialization has occurred due to increase in tourism and fragmentation of forest ranges leading to severe. The tribal communities have long since given up the traditional ways of life and have easily indulged in poaching activities and indiscreet hunting of birds and forest animals. Numerous cases of such assistance provided by the tribal folk to poachers in trying to sell game, live or dead, medicinal herbs have been observed and controlled by the forest department leading to a clash between the tribal communities protected by law and law enforcement agencies. To resolve this conflict and imminent threat to the bio-diversity in this forest, numerous relocation efforts and anti-poaching efforts have been made in the last decade. An increase in poaching was attributed to the tribal support received by poachers in getting guidance from the tribal groups to navigate the forest and tracking game, in exchange for money or other supply of necessaries.
In the last decade there has been enormous activity undertaken both by the Government and certain NGOs to relocate tribals to the periphery of the forests. The relocation efforts are part of a larger focus to conserve the existing tiger populations and elephant habitats which were under serious threat due to change in lifestyles of the tribal folk resident within the forests.
There has been much resistance to relocation efforts from the oldest groups of tribals but success has been met in last few years. Many schools and houses with basic amenities like lighting, hospitals and roads being built to support the relocated tribal population.
Threats and conservation efforts
Threats to the national park come from a large-scale cutting of sandalwood and teak trees. Timber smuggling, especially sandalwood smuggling, happens quite extensively here. Timber felling has been reported from plantation areas in Kollihadi, Vadodara Modu, Tattikere in Veerahosanahalli, and Mettiupe in Kalahari. Other places where timber felling has been reported include Arekatti, Badrikatte, Bidurukatte, Veerana Hosahalli, and Marhigodu ranges. In July 2002 hundreds of trees were cut down in the Veeranahosalli range.
A study carried out between 1996 and 1997 revealed that hunting was the biggest threat to wildlife in Kudremukh and Nagarhole National Parks. The survey carried out on 49 actives and 19 retired hunters revealed that 26 species of wildlife were hunted at an average intensity of 216 hunter days per month per village. As much as 48% of the hunters reported hunting for the 'thrill'. The study showed that in Nagarhole, 16 mammal species weighing over 1 kg were regularly hunted with shotguns and also by traditional methods used by tribal communities.
Poaching of birds and other mammals is another serious issue. A high number of elephant deaths have been reported from this park, with nearly 100 elephants dying between 1991–92 and 2004–05 in the Kodagu and Hunsur Forest Division (PA Update 2005). Elephants are killed for their ivory. A study carried out by Wildlife First! found that nearly 77 elephants were reported dead between 1 January 2000 and 31 October 2002. Another study carried out by the Institute for Natural Resources, Conservation, Education, Research and Training (INSERT) in 2002 revealed that as many as seven elephants had been killed earlier that year.
A report submitted by the Project Tiger Steering Committee stated that barely 25% of the park's staff were involved in vigilance work, thus putting the park at high risk of both, poaching and tree felling. Irregular payment to the forestry staff has been reported in both Bandipur and Nagarhole National Parks and there have also been reports of improper use of project funds.
In January 2012, there was a catastrophic forest fire that destroyed over 6,000 acres (2,400 ha) of forest. Huge trees were reduced to cinder. Burnt remains of snakes, monitor lizards, giant Malabar squirrels lay scattered on the charred remains of what was once a verdant patch of moist-deciduous forest. Forest fires and seasonal droughts coupled with water shortage have caused many wild animals to migrate to other greener spaces.
Human-wildlife conflicts due to raids by wild animals and elephants on nearby villages along with the consequent retaliation by the villagers is another important threat to the parks wildlife. In 2001, the Karnataka state government sanctioned Rs 2 crores to dig elephant proof trenches and install solar fencing around the park to prevent elephants from straying into the farmer's fields.
In 1997, tribal activist groups won public interest litigation in the Karnataka High Court to halt the setting up of a resort called the Gateway Tusker Lodge planned to be set up by the Taj Group of Hotels. With nearly 125 villages present inside the park, NGOs actively working to protect the tribal communities include, Living Inspiration for Tribals (LIFT), Coorg Organisation of Rural Development (CORD), DEED, FEDINA-VIKASA and Nagarhole Budakattu Janara Hakkustapana Samithi. In 2000, the first relocation attempts initiated by a World Bank-funded eco-development project of the local tribal population was begun with 50 tribal people. The relocated families were given land possession certificates for five acres of land and houses at Veeranahosalli, near Hunsur. The state and union government planned to relocate 1,550 tribal families at a cost of ₹155 million.
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