The ongoing census has indicated the presence of tigers in Goa’s Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, thus giving a boost to the demand for declaring it as a dedicated reserve for the striped animal. As per the All India Tiger Estimation, which began in Goa on May 1, “tiger pugmarks, scats, and scratches” were found during the week-long (first phase) field survey in the sanctuary.
Some images of tigers were also captured in cameras installed in the sanctuary, located in the Sattari taluka of North Goa district, a senior forest official said. The surveys since 2002 have indicated the presence of tigers in the Mhadei region, consisting of forested border areas of Goa, Maharashtra, and Karnataka. But, the successive Goa governments have been a bit reluctant in declaring the area as a ‘tiger reserve’. The recent survey and camera images again indicate that the region could be a favourable habitat for tigers, say officials.
“During the field survey, we came across pieces of evidence like pugmarks, tiger scats, and scratches. We are sending the same to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) for analysis,” Goa Conservator of Forest (wildlife) Dr Anil Kumar told PTI. The analysis will help in ascertaining if it is a regular tiger species or a new one, he said. “We have got pictures of tigers in our camera traps installed in the sanctuary. It is a very good sign,” Kumar said.
The Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, that spans across about 208 sq kms in the Western Ghats – declared as the protected area in 1999 – is contiguous to the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary and the Anshi Dandeli Tiger Reserve in Karnataka. The state forest department had first detected the presence of tigers in the Mhadei area in 2002. The 2010 census had also recorded the presence of five tigers in the coastal state’s forest areas. As a result, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had described the Goa stretch of Western Ghats as an important tiger corridor between Anshi-Dandeli tiger reserve and the Sahyadri mountain range.
The forest officials found tiger pug marks in Mhadei area again in 2011, during the wildlife census conducted with the help of Dehradun-based WII. In 2013, the forest department installed hi-tech cameras to record the images and a tigress was spotted in the Mhadei area. Last year, the camera images showed a big cat family -including a tiger, tigress, and three cubs. Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Ajai Saxena said Goa is a tiger range state, but no area has officially been declared as a tiger reserve.
“During the last tiger census in 2014, there was no direct evidence with us, but in 2016 and 2017 the camera traps provided us direct sightings,” he said. The forest department will soon be coming up with a detailed map, chalking out the core areas in the Western Ghats region that could be declared as a tiger reserve, he said. “The ongoing tiger census will help us in our plan, in a big way,” he added. Nature enthusiasts have for long been demanding the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary be declared as a tiger reserve.
Renowned environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar claimed that the presence of tigers in Mhadei region is a well-established fact. “Only the government is not ready to accept it.” The ongoing census will help in further strengthening the demand to declare the area as a tiger reserve, said Kerkar, who is also a member of the National Wildlife Board. Notably, sanctuaries are meant for protection of the wildlife in general, while the reserves – which have ‘core’ and ‘buffer’ (peripheral) areas – are specific to certain animal species.