Buffer Zone: Wildlife Status Assessment around Sahyadri Tiger Reserve

Wildlife survey in buffer zone of Sahyadri Tiger Reserve - Sahyadri Tiger Reserve is a recently constituted tiger reserve in Maharashtra Western Ghats consisting of Koyna Sanctuary and Chandoli National Park. The buffer zone around the tiger reserve consists of reserved forests and private land.However there are several disturbances in the buffer zone that create threats for wildlife. There are reserved forests and private forests in the corridor zone hence connectivity is fairly good in spite of the distance.

The area of buffer zone in these divisions is about 470 km2. Of this about 150 km2 is good forest area, mostly reserved forest, while the rest is village environs and malki land (private land), which is poorly vegetated. There is also a narrow strip of vegetation at the base of the Western Ghats to the west of the tiger reserve, which may be important for movement of tigers. Most of it is private forest. Some of this region is not included in the buffer but will be included in the study according to vegetation density and potential as tiger corridor.Wildlife density is quite low in the core and buffer zones, because of the hilly terrain and the nature of the ecosystem, which consists of dense forests and low grass cover. Tiger is reported to occur in very low density. There is just one photograph of tiger by camera trapping in Chandoli Tiger Reserve. Pugmarks and scat are seen very rarely. Leopards are reported to be fairly common in the buffer zone and Dhole are seen occasionally. Sloth bear are fairly common. Gaur occur in the buffer zone, especially in the rainy season when they come to feed on the agricultural crops. Sambar and barking deer are seen occasionally. Wild boar are common and come for raiding agricultural fields at night. Mouse deer has wide distribution but is seen rarely and is reported to be hunted.

The occupancy survey will be carried out in the study area in systematic occupancy framework. A trail will be identified passing through the beat/occupancy unit and walk will be conducted along the trail. In this way walks will be conducted through all occupancy units in the study area. While walking along the trail search will be carried out for signs of wild animals and direct sightings of wild animals. Wild animal signs will include carnivore scats, herbivore pellets, pug marks,tracks, scratch marks on trees, carnivore scrapes etc.

A systematic assessment of threats will be carried out on each trail. Threats recorded will include tree cutting signs, grazing, fire, human presence and snares and traps. Interviews will be conducted with forest officers, field staff and local people about wildlife presence and threats to wildlife. Records will also be made of developmental pressures such as mining, presence of roads, tourism and construction activity.

Supported by: WWF India, New Delhi