Maoists pose threat to tigers in Karnataka’s Nagarahole

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Bengaluru:  Already on the ‘endangered’ list, tigers are facing a ‘Red threat’ in the Nagarahole reserve area. The Naxal rebels, who operate along the Karnataka-Kerala border, seem to have taken up the cause of tribal families who are being relocated to help tigers thrive without human interference.

Karnataka’s Home Minister K.J. George is aware of the developments and instructions have been issued to the police to keep an eye on the movement of vehicles along the Karnataka-Kerala border.

Almost a decade ago the Red rebels established their presence in the Western Ghats and took up the cause of tribal families who were being relocated from the Kudremukh National Park. After lasting for more than 10 years, it seemed that the Naxal movement was losing steam in the Western Ghats, with its key leaders surrendering to the police.

However, just when the government was under the impression that Karnataka would be free from Naxalism, their entry into Nagarahole Tiger Reserve has alerted the administration once again.

“We have received reports that Naxals have become active along the Karnataka-Kerala border. There are possibilities of them taking up the cause of tribal families in Nagarahole. The authorities concerned have been alerted and they are monitoring the situation,” Home Minister George said.

The local elected representatives of Mysuru, Kodagu and Chamarajanagara districts (which are part of the Niligiri Biosphere) have urged the government to immediately set up anti-Naxal force camps in important locations.

Wildlife biologists and conservationists are worried too.

“Conservation suffered badly in Kudremukh National Park after the Naxals entered the protected forests. We have a long way to go. The government should quickly quell Naxalism in Nagarahole,” said a leading tiger expert.

There are more than 4,000 tribal families across all the national parks, tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka, and efforts are on for the last 20 years to relocate them to places outside the forests. Well-known NGOs and wildlife enthusiasts have joined hands with the forest department to relocate the tribal families. The government has time and again revised the rehabilitation packages for them.

The Nagarahole Tiger Reserve is part of the Rajiv Gandhi National Park (earlier known as Nagarahole National Park) covering 634 square kilometres in Karnataka. The park ranges from the foothills of the Western Ghats (Brahmagiri and Pushpagiri Hills) in Kodagu district of Karnataka and extends up to Kerala border and the adjoining Bandipur National Park (in Karnataka), Mudumalai National Park (Tamil Nadu) and the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala). All these come under the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve which encompasses Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Considered as one of the best protected tiger reserves in the country, Nagarahole has the highest prey density for tigers and is home to an estimated 100 big cats along with the adjoining Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

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