Society for Conservation of Nature

TO CREATE A WILD HAVEN

ROLE OF TUMKUR FOREST DIVISION IN IMPROVING THE BIODIVERSITY OF THE REGION

THROUGH CONSERVATION OF VULNERABEL FAUNAL SPECIES

(Published in www.downtoearth.org.in Tuesday 14 August 2018)

Protected Area means a National Park, a Sanctuary, a Conservation Reserve or a Community Reserve notified under sections 18, 35, 36-A and 36-C of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. When a notified State or Reserve Forest is declared as a Protected Area, it commands better status. The protection is strengthened. The State and the Central Governments evince keen interest in developing such areas in order to improve the biodiversity therein which in turn provides all the ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, release of oxygen, rain water harvesting, shelter for wildlife, soil conservation, supply of food and medicine, etc. Tumkur Forest Division takes keen interest to bring more extent of the State Forest under the Protected Area status with the idea of improving the ecological health of the region.  The effective measures undertaken by the division in recent years for the same are described in detail to be followed by others for betterment of the country as a whole.

Bukkapatna State Forest notified in the year 1900 falls under the Bukkapatna Range of Tumkur Forest division of Karnataka State. This is considered as one of the last remaining large natural open savannah woodland forests of Karnataka state. Major portions of the forest consist mainly of open grasslands interspersed with natural vegetation like Dalbergia latifolia, Anogeissus latifolia and Cassia fistula. Certain parts of this forest have both natural and man-made plantations of Hardwickia binata. Annual rainfall of this region is around 560 mm. The Range Forest Office of Bukkapatna range had been built as early as in 1913 during the British regime considering the importance of the region. The office building renovated recently without altering the original design has added aesthetic value to it. The Heritage Forest Rest House built at Bellara in 1911 near the state forest also proves as evidence for the real interest taken by the British Forest Officers in protecting the forest wealth.

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RANGE OFFICE BUILDING BUILT IN 1913 RENOVATED DURING 2018

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BELARA FOREST REST HOUSE BUILT IN 1911

About 18 mammal species have been documented through camera traps in this forest. Though Chinkara (Gazella bennettii) was recorded in Bagalkot district earlier, this is the first time it has been recorded in Tumkur district. About 200 numbers of Chinkara have been estimated here. In addition to Chinkara, two other antelope species including Four-horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) and Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) have also been recorded here. The vast extent of open grasslands with sparse tree growth as preferred by these antelopes may be a reason for the presence of them in this forest. The Striped Hyaena (Hyaena hyaena) which prefers this kind of forest also has been recorded here.

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CHINKARA (GAZELLA BENNETTII) RECORDED IN BUKKAPATNA STATE FOREST

Some of the vulnerable and near threatened faunal species as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which are found here are the Leopard (Panthera pardus), Sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), Chinkara, Four-horned Antelope and Blackbuck and Striped hyaena respectively. Other mammal species that are also captured by camera traps are Jackal (Canis aureus), Jungle Cat (Felis chaus), Rusty-spotted Cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), Common Mangoose (Herpestes edwardsii), Ruddy Mangoose (Herpestes smithi), Black-naped Hare (Lepus nigricollis), Bonnet Macaque (Macaca radiata), Southern plains Grey Langur ( Semnopithecus dussumieri), Indian Porcupine (Hystrix indica), Small Indian Civet (Viverricula indica) and Common Palm Civet or Toddy Cat (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus).

Based on the study made, a proposal has been submitted to the Government of Karnataka for declaring the Bukkapatna State Forest with an extent of 13,188.70 ha as a Wildlife Sanctuary as such an assemblage of dry species in one area is rare. Above all, all the four species of Chinkara, Four-honed Antelope, Blackbuck and Hyaena have been protected under Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. If the proposal is accepted and suitable order passed, definitely it will be a boon not only for the dumb denizens of the dry forest, but also for the whole of Karnataka State, as it will improve the biodiversity and the ecological health of the region.

An extent of 5000 ha of the Dry Deciduous forests of Thimlapura State Forest of Madhugiri Range of Tumkur Forest division has been declared as Bear Sanctuary in 2014 for protecting the Sloth bear, a vulnerable species as per IUCN. About 15 numbers of Sloth Bear have been estimated here. Probably the uniqueness of the forest here had inspired the British Forest Officers to build a Forest Rest House as early as in 1898 in the midst of the forest. The forest rest house has been renovated recently. The forest has plenty of Phoenix humilis, the fruits of this low palm are very much relished by the bear. In addition, fruit bearing tree species like Aegle marmelos, Feronia elephantum, Buchnania lenzan, Annona squamosa, Alangium salvifolium, Morinda tinctoria, etc., which are found growing in this forest may also meet out the food requirement of the bear.  The rivers which originate from the forests of Thimlapura serve the water requirement of the nearby town Madhugiri and the adjoining villages for irrigation and drinking purpose. Thus the ecological services rendered by the forests are improved to a great extent by declaring the area as a sanctuary, as sanctuary commands better protection status than the notified state forest.

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ENTRANCE TO THE BEAR SANCTUARY  IN THIMLAPURA STATE FOREST OF TUMKUR

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THIMLAPURA REST HOUSE BUILT DURING 1898 & RENOVATED DURING 2018

The deer park situated at Namada Chilume, 11 kms away in Devarayanadurga State Forest with minimum pollution acts as lung space for the residents of Tumkur. There are 95 spotted deer in the park. The deer park is well connected by road, railway network and by air. This has been formed with the objectives of conservation, education and environment awareness to the local people and the outsiders. The name of the location here carries mythological importance. When Rama during their exile in forest along with Sitha and Lakshmana was in search of water for applying tilak on his forehead and as he could not find water anywhere, he shot an arrow at the rock and water started gushing from the rock and  water is flowing now also throughout the year non-stop. Henceforth, this place is called Namada Chilume, with the meaning of ‘Spring of Tilak’ (Naama=Tilak & Chilume=Spring, in Kannada). Thus the story goes as per the locals. The spot is fenced and visited by the tourists with great respect and reverence and the water is considered as sacred water.

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NAMADA CHILUME-THE FENCED SPOT WITH WATER OOZING FROM THE HOLE

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RECENTLY RENOVATED CENTURY OLD FOREST REST HOUSE AT NAMADA CHILUME

Though the type of forest is classified as Southern Tropical Thorn Forest according to Champion and Seth, presently the forest type has improved to Dry Deciduous forest because of the good protection given in recent years. The common floral species are Shorea tolura, Dalbergia paniculata, Wrightia tinctoria, Anogeissus latifolia, Terminalia arjuna, Acacia chundra, Dendrocalamus strictus, Terminalia paniculata, Chloroxylon swietenia, Pterocarpus marsupium, Dodonia viscosa, etc. The fauna found here are Panther, Sloth bear, Wolf (Canis lapus), Indian Wild boar (Sus scrofa), Mouse deer (Tragulus meminna), Monitor lizard (Veranus indicus), Python (Python molurus), Peafowl (Pavo cristatus), etc. The area enjoys an average annual rainfall of 690 mm.

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ATTRACTIONS AROUND NAMADA CHILUMA IN TUMKUR FOREST DIVISION

Dr. Salim Ali during his trip to this area between 31st December 1939 and 4th January 1940 as part of his survey of the erstwhile Mysore state had recorded fifty six species of birds.  In all 132 species of birds belonging 38 families have been recorded so far in Devarayanadurga State Forest. The hut in which Dr. Salim Ali had stayed here has been renovated recently. Siddha Snajeevini Medicinal Plants Garden (Medicinal Plants Conservation Area) established here has an assemblage of 90 medicinal plants. The Nature Trail formed here also attracts lot of visitors. With the prior permission of the DCF (Deputy Conservator of Forests) or the RFO (Range Forest Officer), the trekking can be undertaken with the help and guidance of the experienced field staff. The Deer Park situated here, the Holy Spring (Namada Chilume), Dr. Salim Ali’s Hut, Medicinal Plants Conservation Area (MPCA) and the Nature Trail don’t fail to make the day of the visitors quite interesting. Thus the Tumkur Forest Division provides entertainment and recreation to the residents of Tumkur town and the nearby villagers.

Warning boards have been provided in vulnerable areas on the National Highways and other important roads where the wild animals cross, in order to generate awareness among the motorists about the wild animals here. Generally Panthers, Bears and Deer use to cross the roads, as the roads cut across the State Forests in a few places.

The Bear Sanctuary formed in Madhugiri Range exclusively for protecting the vulnerable species not only provides safe habitat for the animals, but also supply the ecological services which are very much essential for the survival of all living organisms. The proposal for creation of the Wildlife Sanctuary for protecting the vulnerable species like Chinkara, Four-horned Antelope, Blackbuck and Striped Hyaena, etc., if approved will serve the purpose of conserving the wild animals and their habitats which act as the watershed for the nearby areas meeting out the basic requirements. Thus Tumkur Forest division not only plays a key role in conserving the vulnerable species, but also ensures the ecosystem services which are considered to be very much essential for the happy and healthy living of all the organisms. If the systematic action taken by the Tumkur Forest Division in improving the biodiversity through conservation of the vulnerable faunal species is emulated by the forest divisions of every other state, the day of achieving success towards the conservation of the biodiversity of our country is not far off.