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31 March, 2008

A case for expanding India's second oldest Reserve Forest

Background
Devarayanadurga state forest (DDSF) has seen many changes in its boundaries since it first got protection status by the British, way back in 1853. When it finally got notified in 1907 as a Reserve Forest, for unknown reasons, some parts of the forest were excluded from its official boundaries. These are chiefly the slopes along the periphery of state forest’s hills. These have been under control of the state's revenue department but protected by the forest department.

Proposed 'Devarayanadurga East Yellow-throated Bulbul' Conservation Reserve in relation to Devarayanadurga State Forest (sketched from Survey of India sheet No:57 G/3, Scale 1:50,000) Ameen Ahmed, March 2008

Wildlife
India's largest butterfly, over 250 bird species, some of India's most beautiful mammals and snakes, all live in DDSF and its surrounding revenue forests. The Yellowthroated Bulbul (Pycnonotus xantholaemus), endemic to interior peninsular India and categorised as 'Vulnerable' by Birdlife International - IUCN’s official red list authority for birds, deserves special mention. First sighted here by well-known ornithologist Dr.S.Subramanya, it is found here in large numbers. As part of observing of the state forest's 'centenary year' - its final notification in 1907, a bio-diversity survey of the revenue forests around Devaranayadurga village was conducted this March by WANC. Wildlife biologists and scientists from IISc also participated in this. During this exercise, Dr.Gururaja KV added 4 new species to the previous list of 6 amphibians here.


A sketch on a picture showing the forested slopes proposed to be included in the proposed conservation reserve. They were originally excluded from the final notification of the forest by the then Government of Mysore, in 1907.

A sketch on a picture showing the forested slopes proposed to be included in the proposed conservation reserve. They were originally excluded from the final notification of the forest by the then Government of Mysore, in 1907.
(Above and below) View of the Yellowthroated Bulbul habitat

Importance
Apart from being a haven for rare and threatened wildlife, its jungles are a catchment area for tens of streams. These streams provide much needed water for tens and thousands of villagers along their courses. Two irrigation reservoirs - Irraksandra and Teetha, apart from countless small ‘keres’ (small man-made lakes or ponds) are fed by the rivers Jaya and Mangali which originate here and for whom this forest forms a major catchment area.

Conservation
Like the rest of urban and semi-urban India, Tumkur district has been expanding by leaps and bounds. There has been an immense pressure on natural areas to meet the demands of development, particularly the boom in construction of not only Tumkur District but that of Greater Bangalore as well. There is an urgent need to safeguard current and future interests of humans as well as wildlife in and around our urban centres. This has to be done by sustainably using our non-renewable natural resources. Expanding official boundaries of forests like DDSF by including the existing wooded areas contiguous with them and retaining the legitimate rights of local villagers, is one way of doing it. In this direction, a team from the local NGO Wildlife Aware Nature Club (WANC) has been identifying the potential forest areas around DDSF that are currently free of human habitations and developmental activities like quarrying. A proposal is being prepared to submit to the state forest department, in April this year, for a Yellowthroated Bulbul Conservation Reserve to be carved out from the revenue forests surrounding Devarayanadurga village, under India's Wildlife Protection Act (1972). This proposal is a part of WANC’s overall strategy to conserve DD’s revenue forests.

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For an earlier story on the Revenue forests of Devarayanadurga, please see this link:

'Saving the bulbul's home'

Yellowthroated Bulbul: A new home to secure the future of this exclusively 'Indian' bulbul. Pic: Clement Francis

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Saving the bulbul's home
Amit S Upadhye TNN Bangalore:
In 1906, when the British government notified a 42.27-sqkm forest patch on the hills along east Tumkur district as Devarayanadurga state forest, it left out 6 sqkm abutting it.

Over a hundred years later, the patch is now getting its due, with conservationists formulating a proposal to declare it a yellow-throated bulbul conservation reserve. The area is a nesting ground for these winged beauties, apart from being home to sloth bears and leopards.

On World Forestry Day recently, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science, members of the Wildlife Aware Nature Club (WANC), Tumkur, and forest department sleuths began a two-day survey of the patch, which is categorized as southern thorny scrub forest. The forest department will formulate the proposal based on the study results. The patch is at present under possession of the revenue department.

"Quarrying on the hill ranges around Tumkur has been putting immense pressure on the critical wildlife habitat thriving below. Seeking the declaration of this patch as a reserve is an attempt to retain it,'' said Ameen Ahmed, WANC member.

"The area holds potential for wildlife. The yellow-throated bulbul is found in plenty in the Devarayanadurga forest, as well as the patch which is being studied,'' said Tumkur DFO B Parameshwar.

The findings of the two days survey were overwhelming for the local conservationists when they sighted a spotted deer and jungle cat, apart from number of winged beauties. "The presence of prey base (spotted dear) for the big cats, gives boost to the theory that the tigers are on prowl in Devarayanadurga state forest,'' added a biodiversity expert.


THRIVING ECOSYSTEM
The 6 sqkm of forest, abutting Devarayanadurga state forest, is likely to be proposed as 'Yellow-Throated Bulbul Conservation Reserve'. The patch, situated about 75 km from Bangalore, is home to leopards, slender loris, blacknaped hares, jackals, hyenas, langoors and sloth bears. Paradise fly-catcher, tickel's blue catcher, Nilgiri fly-catcher and blue rock thrush, apart from yellow-throated bulbul, are seen here in large number.

Givotea trees are found here, along with sterculia and anogeisus species. Anogeisus trees, locally known as 'antu mara' or 'dinduga', are elephants' favourites. Bamboo clumps and more than 200 medicinal plants are found here.

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Source:
The Times of India (Bangalore), Times City, Page 5 http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=VE9JQkcvMjAwOC8wMy8zMSNBcjAwNTAx&Mode=HTML&Locale=english-skin-custom

Map below shows some of the areas in focus in the above story:
View Larger Map

05 March, 2008

Tigers 'return' to haunt Devarayanadurga

Dear WANCers,

The Tigers of Devarayanadurga have always haunted nature lovers visiting this place so as many of our 'Tiger Conservationists'. The later deny their existence or attribute them to captive tigers being released by travelling circuses or others. What ever the truth is, the tigers of Devarayanadurga don't seem to go away as quickly as our 'tiger conservationists' want them to. Please read the latest 'sighting' below.

Thanks,
Ameen
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Tigress with two cubs spotted in Devarayanadurga State Forest
20th February 2008 :
Early morning by 00.30 hrs ie., 19th midnight (at 12.30am) Assistant Conservator of Forests, Tumkur Sub-Division Sri T V Srinivas and Range Forest Officer, Tumkur Range Sri. M N Naik along with a guard Ganganna K C, spotted a Tigress with two cubs near Shanimahatma Temple and Ganesh Temple along Belagumba - Oordigere road inside Devarayanadurga state forest. They were returning back to Tumkur from DDSF. According to Srinivas, he says he was thrilled to see a tiger in the wild. He says the majestic look of tiger can never be forgotten. He was driving his car from DDSF. Car passed the tigeress which was spotted on the road side. Two cubs ran away when the light of the car head light fall on the animal. They took the car reverse and focused the headlight on the Tigress which was sitting with out bothering about the car for about 5 minutes. It did not move from the spot it seems. After some time they raised the engine noise, the tiger gently raised and tried to climb the elevated area. It failed to climb and retook another direction.

According to Naik, who to his credit has worked in tiger reserves like Bhadra and Anashi - Dandeli, claims the visibility of tigress was very clear as the headlight was focused on the animal. He says the stripes on the body were very clear and the head was quite big compared to Leopard. Since they had the opportunity to see the animal for a long time he explains every part very clearly. According to him the cubs were of one and half foot height and the tigress was over 3 ft in height. He says only a tiger could sit such a long time with calm in spite knowing that some one is watching. The whiskers were very prominent and the and the markings on the face were prominent. Next day morning RFO along with few guards tried for the pug mark. Since it is summer and the soil was hard they could locate the pugmarks but were not very clear. No documentation made of the pug mark.
T V N MURTHY
Honorary Wildlife Warden, Govt. of Karnataka
Tumkur District
Email: tvnmurthy@vsnl.com
For more/related information, please see: http://tumkurenvironment.blogspot.com/2007/09/dear-readers-following-story-appeared.htmlhttp://tumkurenvironment.blogspot.com/2007/08/tiger-in-devarayanadurga-posted-august.html
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The following story based on this incident appeared in the Times of India (Bangalore on Mar 7, 2008
Link: http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=VE9JQkcvMjAwOC8wMy8wNyNBcjAwNTAw&Mode=HTML&Locale=english-skin-custom

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IN A FOREST NEAR YOU
Tigress seen in Tumkur forest
TIMES NEWS NETWORK, Bangalore:

You don't have to go too far from the city to spot a tiger. In 2000, a team of biodiversity experts engaged in mapping the medicinal plants nursery in a forest patch in Tumkur district were stunned to spot tiger pug marks and fresh scat in the area.

This discovery proved the existence of tigers in Devarayanadurga reserve forests in Tumkur. Moreover, the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, confirmed the scat found in Tumkur was that of a tiger.

Eight years later, on the night of February 19, a forest official team spotted a tigress along with her two cubs at Belagumba Beat in Namadachilume, Devarayanadurga Reserve Forest.

The forest night beat, led by assistant conservator of forests,Tumkur division, T V Srinivas, along with range forest officer, M NNaik and guard K C Ganganna, spotted a tigress with two cubs at Namadachiluve, near Shanimahatma temple along Belagumba-Oordigere Road. This was inside the Devarayanadurga forest.

"We were thrilled to see a tiger family in the wild. We havealready recorded it in the log books. A letter will be submitted to the higher-ups in a day or two,'' said Naik, Tumkur range RFO. When the vehicle passed, the cubs ran away. They reversed and focused the headlight on the tigress, which was sitting without bothering aboutthe vehicle for 5 minutes. "The visibility of tigress was very clearas the headlight was focused on the animal. The next morning, we tried to check the pug marks, but could not since the soil was dry,'' Naik added.

Spread across 41 sq km, Devarayanadurga forest is home to leopards,sloth bears, wild boars and spotted deer. Sambar and tiger have beenspotted in the past. The previous tiger census conducted by the stateforest department recorded indirect sighting of tiger in the samereserve, since pug marks were noticed.
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