To store water for wild animals
With extreme scorching summer roasting the flora of the Western Ghats, the Kalakkad – Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve has completed digging good number of ponds to store rainwater during the southwest monsoon to quench the thirst of the wild animals for a longer duration. This will also ensure adequate fresh grass shoots around these water bodies to feed the herbivores.
As dry spell continues to haunt the catchment areas of Papanasam dam, influx of water into the second largest reservoir of the district has dwindled to become just zero even as water level in the dam stands at just 9.40 feet against its maximum capacity of 143 feet. Understandably, testing days are ahead for the wild animals that are now entering the farms closer to the Western Ghats in search of food and water.
To check this problem that always lead to man – animal conflict, the Kalakkad – Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve’s Ambasamudram Division has dug good number ponds at vantage points around Mundanthurai area to save water during the southwest monsoon that would usually start drenching this region in the first week of June every year.
The ponds dug across these spots, where wild streams would usually pass through, are likely to hold this water before it mixes-up with the water being discharged from the Papanasam dam.
“We’re working on creating more such waterbodies inside KMTR to store more water for the wild animals before the onset of southwest monsoon. Besides reducing soil erosion, the water percolating from these water bodies will nourish the flora too to provide adequate food for the herbivores, especially deer and bison,” Deputy Director of KMTR’s Ambasamudram Division Omkaram told The Hindu.
As per the local people’s narrative, Mundanthurai plateau used to be a ‘deer valley’ until a few decades ago. However, over the years, lemon grass has encroached upon the palatable grass species. This led to fall in spotted deer population, a dependable prey base for tiger and panther, in this region.
“Spotted deer love open spaces. So, during the last financial year, we created around 50 hectares of open land by removing dense lemon grass. Within these open spaces, we’ve created water bodies to fulfil drinking water requirements too,” Mr. Omkaram says.
After the lemon grass bushes were cleared, there has been very good response from elephants, bison and sambar deer that freely roam around in these open spaces during dawn and dusk and spend more time in these open grasslands in the night as it provide much needed fodder also.
“KMTR is having a very few grasslands. Most of these terrains are in hilly regions and do not support much of the grasses. Plateau is very important for the protection of herbivores. So these waterbodies also part of our strategy to provide open grasslands spaces for deer and other herbivores,” the Deputy Director says adding that the KMTR would create more open grasslands in future for feeding the herbivores.
“Population of bison has been increasing over the years. If we don’t try to create more grassland, these animals will be forced to venture into agriculture lands close to the sanctuary in the near future in search of food”.
The KMTR administration also has plans to reduce ‘vehicle density’ to bring down the disturbance to the herbivores.
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