Monday, April 27, 2009

Summer threat to wildlife.


Cuttack, April 26: For tigers, elephants, deer and other animals, this summer has been the worst in recent times with no rainfall being recorded in the past six months across the vast stretch of forests from Mayurbhanj to Koraput, making them vulnerable to poachers.

With average temperature hovering around 42°C in most of the areas, several traditional water sources in the forests have dried up, while the water level has receded in the rest. The situation has been aggravated this year with summer setting in early.

In isolated pockets of the jungle, migration of animals into nearby villages in search of drinking water has become a cause of concern to animal rights activists. “As the mercury rises, the frequency of such sojourns out of their habitat by animals is increasing, making them more vulnerable to poaching and hunting,” B.K. Mohanty, the secretary of Wildlife Society of Orissa, said.

As the carnivores “colonised” on whatever water resources left in the forests, tiger preys like spotted deer, sambar and barking deer are among the first to venture out to human habitat in search of water. “If immediate steps are not taken to provide enough water to the animals within forest limits, hundreds of them would fall prey to poaching and hunting,” Mohanty added.

The problem is potentially “distressing and alarming” in Athamalik, Dhenkanal, Daspalla, Keonjhar, Rairakhol, Kandhamal, Ghumsur, Sambalpur, Sundargarh, Koraput, Khariar and Kalahandi forests.

Satkosia reserve faces the same situation, as a large part of water bodies in the wildlife sanctuary have turned dry. In Orissa, the total number of tigers are 20, according to the Wildlife Institute of India, which came up with a report, “Status of tigers, co-predators and prey in India”, in 2008.

The condition in Simlipal national park is somewhat better because of its abundant water resources.

The elephant population in the ranges of Narsinghpur, Dhenkanal, Athamalik, Satkosia, Pallahara, Keonjhar and Kotgarh was also being driven out of their habitat to quench thirst. They were suffering the most, as they need vast quantities of water both for bathing and drinking.

A senior forest official said there was a “crisis”, but claimed: “We have been working on a plan to tackle the crisis with water harvesting structures. The strategy of digging saucer pits, which generally collect water from underground sources and are easy to access for animals, has also been taken up in collaboration with the respective district administrations.” But wildlife activists are not convinced. “The harvesting structures serve little purpose, as they are located not within the forest limits but outside,” Mohanty said.

“Over 5,000 animals are killed every year as wildlife managers and officers fail to monitor the situation or take timely measures,” he alleged.

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