Dogs make tigers run for cover

Are the big cats from Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra avoiding Kawal Tiger Reserve (KTR), spread over four northern most districts in Telangana, due to the ecological imbalance caused by a huge population of Indian wild dogs? The number of wild dogs, also known as dholes, has increased from 30 in 2014 and 249 currently in KTR’s Jannaram Forest Division alone as per the preliminary estimates of the 2018 wildlife census.

The last a tiger was seen in KTR was in 2015 and presumably the population of wild dogs experienced a quantum jump around the same time. While these co- predators of tigers exist in packs of 10 or 12 individuals, bigger packs consist of even 40 of them and such packs deter tigers from inhabiting the place, according to Jannaram Forest Divisional Officer K. Ravinder.

Jannaram Division in Mancherial district has an area of about 27,000 hectare of the total 89,000 hectare area of KTR and is central to any tiger movement from TATR or Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Yavatmal district, also of Maharashtra. While Asifabad Division in Kumram Bheem Asifabad district is spread ver 25,000 hectare, the Khanapur Division in Nirmal district covers over 30,000 hectare and the remaining form part of Birsaipet Range in Adilabad district.

"We know for sure that tigers are coming here in August but are perhaps returning in October-November. Tigers do not like to stay at places where the number of dholes is huge – gaining the potential to kill the big cat," the Forest official opined.

"Such a situation exists even in Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra," revealed Sarosh Lodhi, a well known conservationist and wildlife photographer from Nagpur. "Tigers are eluding the sanctuary since the population of wild dogs has gone up or it could even be vice versa," he opined while underscoring the need for a deeper study into the phenomenon at KTR.

"The population of leopards in Jannaram divsion has also gone up from 4 in 2014 to 20 this year besides that of herbivores going up from a cumulative of 500 to about 2,600," Mr. Ravinder quoted statistics. He apparently wanted to drive home the point that the herbivore prey base, comprising of gaur (increased from 29 to about 60), spotted deer (from 200 to about 800), nilgai (200 to about 700), sambhar (from 50 to about 200), black buck (from 10 to about 70) and chausingha (from 25 to about 70), has become conducive in quantum for a good tiger population to survive here.

The Jannaram Forest official claims that the herbivore population in his Division has gone up despite the presence of large number of wild dogs thanks to ‘smart’ management of the facility as well as that of grass lands.

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