Somewhere in the Nilgiris....

For the first time in several decades, wildlife buffs sighted the striped cat majestically striding through the Sathyamangalam forests over a year ago. Recent wildlife census revealed pug marks of at least 10 tigers. And now hitech cameras placed deep inside the Bhavanisagar range has confirmed that the Sathyamangalam jungle, once the home of bandit Veerappan, has emerged as a new, safe haven for India’s national animal, which is on the verge of extinction in the country. The camera traps captured a tiger in a rare close-up, a week ago, at the Bhavanisagar range, which is adjoining the Mudumalai Tiger reserve in the Nilgiris. As the Mudumalai tiger sanctuary spans just about 300 sq km, the tigers are moving into the neighbouring jungle tracts of Sathyamangalam. “We have spotted a tiger in our cameras. But we plan to do a more detailed assessment of the tiger population and its distribution in our forest division,” says Sathyamangalam forest officer, S Ramasubramaniam. With assistance from the Wildlife Fund, the Forest department plans to position camera traps in the Thalavady, Asanur and Thalamalai areas of the Sathyamangalam forests to get the exact count of the tigers in the region. The camera traps also revealed the presence of hyenas in Sathyamangalam. While wildlife enthusiasts are elated at the strides of tigers in Sathyamangalam when the big cat’s population is declining across the country, the Forest department personnel are concerned over the poachers on the prowl. A few months ago, five poachers were nabbed near Sathyamangalam for trying to sell the skin of a tiger cub. A detailed probe revealed that the tiger cub was killed in the Mudumalai sanctuary three years ago by a local tribal, who sold the skin for a meagre Rs 300. The gang which bought the tiger skin tried to sell it for Rs 2 lakh. Amid concerns that poachers may target Sathyamangalam jungles, the forest personnel have stepped up combing operations in the tiger habitats. “We have strengthened our intelligence network in the vulnerable regions and intensified the search in the areas bordering Karnataka,” says the DFO. The Special Task Force too has also intensified its anti-poaching vigil across the ‘1500 sq km Sathyamangalam jungles to ensure the big cats are safe in their cosy, new home.

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