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Introduction

Melghat Tiger Reserve is located on southern offshoot of the Satpura Hill Range in Central India, also called Gavilgarh hills. The high ridge running East-West which has highest point at Vairat (1178 m above MSL) forms the South Western boundary of the Reserve.It is a prime habitat of Tiger. The forest is Tropical Dry Deciduous in nature, dominated by Teak (Tectona grandis). The area is catchment to the five major rivers viz Khandu, Khapra, Sipna, Gadga and Dolar, all of which are tributaries of the river Tapti. The North-Eastern boundary of the Reserve is marked by River Tapti. Melghat is prime biodiversity repository of the Maharashtra State.

Nature has offered protection to Melghat in the form of rugged topography with only few entry points. The Makhala, Chikhaldara, Chiladari, Patulda and Gugamal are the large plateau amidst rugged terrain.Continuity of forests in Satpura Hill Range guarantees long term conservation potential of the area.


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Conservation History

Melghat area was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1974. Presently, the total area of the Reserve is 1676.93 sq. km. The core area of the Reserve, the Gugarnal National Park with an area of 361.28 sq. km. and buffer area of the Reserve, the Melghat Tiger Sanctuary with an area of 788.28 sq. km. (of which 21.39 sq. km. is non-forest) were together re-notified by the state government in 1994 as Melghat Sanctuary. The remaining area is management as 'multiple use area'. Previously, Melghat Tiger Sanctuary was created in 1985 with an area of 1597.23 sq. km. Gugarnal National Park was carved out of this Sanctuary in 1987.

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Census  

         
Animal
1993
1995
1996
1997
 
  Tiger
  72
  71
  72
  73
  Leopard
  57
  57
  67
  79
  Gaur
  2974
  2138
  1512
  1755
  Sambar
  2796
  2703
  2504
  1718
  Chousinga
  128
  111
  N.A
  N.A
  Nilgai
  254
  132
  285
  232
  Barking Deer
  1656
  1672
  1191
  1302
  Wild boar
  3988
  3350
  2278
  1966
  Monkey
  4995
  3089
  7950
  8780
  Sloth bear
  121
  145
  200
  187
  Cheetal
  265
  240
  402
  172
  Wild Dog
  139
  202
  295
  123
  Hyena
  50
  42
  49
  37
  Jackal
  97
  51
  95
  61

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Offence Cases

Year
Total Case
   
  1994-1995
  52
  1995-1996
  36
  1996-1997
  18
  1997-1998
  18
  1998-1999
  24
   

 

Archeology 

The Gavilgarh fort on the Chikhaldara plateau and Narnala fort abetting South Eastern part of Melghat Tiger Reserve add to the aesthetic values of the area. The visitors to these archaeological monuments enjoy serene forests in the backdrop.

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Forest Types

Southern Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests

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Major Flora

More than 700 naturalised plant species have been enlisted in Flora of Melghat. These species belong to about 400 genera representing as many as 97 families. There are 90 tree spp., 66 shrubs spp., 316 herbs spp., 56 climbers, 23 sedges and 99 grass species alongwith 60-70 newly identified species.

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Main Species

Teak is the predominant tree species.The common associated are Lagerstroemia parviflora, Lannea coromandelica, Emblica officinalis, Terminalia tomentosa, Anogeissus latifolia and Oujenia oojeinesis. Bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus ) is wide spread.

Major Fauna

Main Species

Mammals: Tiger, Leopard, Sloth bear, Wild dog, Jackal, Sambar, Gaur, Barking deer, Nilgai, Cheetal, Chousinga, Ratel, Flying Squirrel, Wild boar, Langur, Rhesus monkey, Porcupine, Pangolin, Mouse deer, Python, Otter, Caracal, Black napped hare.

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Management   

Practices, Achievements and Shortfalls

Protection and habitat management are the main inputs. Issues related to high degree of man-animal conflict are tackled on priority basis.
The Reserve area has been divided into three zones for management and to strike a balance between the biodiversity conservation and ecologically sustainable community development.



Achievements

1.
Canopy of forest has improved to a great extent.
2.
The population of various wild animals has increased.
3.
All forest exploitation activities like timber harvesting, fuel wood harvesting, Strict protection from poaching and strict fire control
4.
The database on faunal and floral attributes and other wildlife related activities have been created.
5.
More than 50 publications
6.
Staff and labourers have been trained in activities like population estimation of animals, wildlife management and other activities.


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1.
Botanical Survey of India (BSI) was involved in preparation flora of Melghat.
2.
Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has completed a 3-year survey of the area. The survey documentation is in progress.
3.
Medicinal plant conservation area has been established with the help of Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT), Bangalore
.
4.
Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has completed 3-year research project on "Management of Biodiversity in Central India". Another project on "Integrated Bio-diversity Management in Satpura Hill Range" has been initiated.

New Initiatives

Eco-development

Eco-development activities on pilot basis were taken up during 1992-97. The encouraging success was followed up with Eco-development planning under guidance of WII and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The response of local people is encouraging.

Village Forest Protection Committees

Village Forest Protection Committee has been established in village Gullarghat, which has taken up the responsibility of Medicinal Plant Conservation. Similar committees will be established soon in few other villages.

Protection Squads / Patrolling

During monsoon special protection squads carry out foot patrolling, to curb hunting of sambar and wild boar by local people. Similar squads are established during summer, for fire protection works.

Infrastructure and Facilities

The Nature education and interpretation centre at Semadoh has 4 dormitories (64 beds) 10 huts (20 beds) and tent facility. Tent facility (6 tents) has been established at 11 different places to facilitate trekking in the Reserve.

Education and Awareness

A Nature Education and Interpretation Centre has been established at Semadoh. Around 50 thousand people visit this centre annually. Two orientation centres at Akot and Harisal, and an interpretation centre at Amravati are also planned.

Constraints

Human population

There are no villages in the core area. There are 61 villages in the Reserve - 22 villages in the buffer zone and 39 villages in the Multiple Use Area. The human population in buffer zone and MUA is 9160 and 15506 respectively as per 1991 census. The inhabitants are mainly tribal, largely Korku tribe (80%) and others like Gond, Nihal, Balai, Gaolan, Gawali, Halbi, Wanjari etc.

Livestock population

The livestock population of 22 villages in the buffer zones is 11024 and that of 39 villages in Multiple Use Area is 15642 as per census of 1994.

Weeds

There is gregarious spread of Lantana camara and Hyptis sauveolens. Lantana is found in almost all valleys and village surroundings, where constant grazing takes place. However it is absent on slopes. Lantana and Hyptis have spread to roughly 30 per cent and 20 per cent of the area respectively.

Encroachment

None in the core area.

Grazing

No grazing exists in the core area. The remaining area is burdened with grazing pressures of 25 to 30 thousand livestock heads. However the grazing is intense around villages and in broad valleys which are also better habitats for wild herbivores as they are the only sites with water availability.

Fire

There are few incidences (on an average 12 cases per annum) of fire in the core area, affecting 10 per cent of the area. Fires in the buffer and multiple use area of the Reserve are frequent. The grassy tops of the hills (locally called 'ballas') are prone to fire. The rugged terrain makes the fire protection a difficult job. Almost 20 per cent of the area gets burns annually.

Poaching of fauna and flora

Poaching is rare in the core. Hunting of sambar and wild boar is done by local people. Collection of medicinal plants like Musli (Chlorophyllum tuberosum) is also noticed.

Poaching Cases

   
Year
Case
  1990-91
  6
  1991-92
  7
  1992-93
  12
  1993-94
  10
  1994-95
  8
  1995-96
  6
  1996-97
  2
  1997-98
  5

 

 

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Criminals and Extremists

None

Epidemics

Foot and mouth disease is noticed sometimes. But no epidemic has been recorded.

Control of the Buffer

The buffer and the multiple use area are under dual control of 3 territorial divisions and the Reserve Management.

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Conflicts   

Man-Animal

Tiger prey base in Melghat includes Gaur, Sambar, Barking deer, Wild boar, Cheetal and Chousinga. However Gaur and Sambar are in low densities. Chital, is found in few pockets and does not contribute much to the prey base. Thus, the domestic cattle substantially contribute towards the prey base, 400-500 cattle are kills by tiger and leopard annually. Quite naturally, this is a matter of conflict.

Injuries and killing of human beings by tiger, leopard and sloth bears is another conflict. The magnitude is indicated by the following statistics.

Year
No. of persons injured
No. of persons dead
     
  1996-97
6 (2 tigers, 4 Sloth Bear)
1 (Tiger)
  1997-98
11 (1 tiger, 10 Sloth Bear)
1 (Tiger)
  1996-97
5 (Sloth Bear)
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Man-Forest

People set fire to the forest to facilitate collection of NTFP, use destructive methods of harvesting gums, honey, fruits, flower, roots, tubers, medicinal plants etc. The local people have almost free access for firewood, small timber, bamboo and grasses. All this dependence is not quantified. Presently the dependence on forest produce is not causing any evident impact on the forest.

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Action Points

   
Immediate transfer of entire Reserve area along with staff under the administrative control of the Director.
2.
Finalisation of legal status of Core and Buffer area as National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary respectively.
3.
Establishment of strike force to strengthen protection.
4.
Rehabilitation of few villages from buffer on priority.
5.
Ecodevelopment in villages in the Multiple Use Area.
6.
Joint Forest Management.
7.
Staff orientation and training to improve the management capabilities and to provide them adequate essentialities to get their commitment.
8.
Building up of research and monitoring database to support conservation activities

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