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| Last Updated:: 04/11/2016

Asiatic Wild Buffalo Gets Its First Sanctuary in Country












The endangered Asiatic Wild Buffaloes have got country’s first dedicated sanctuary at Kolamarka forests in Maharashtra. As per the Red List Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), less than 4,000 population remain worldwide, with as few as 200 “genetically pure” individuals remaining. In this scenario, Kolamarka’s success lies in registering nearly two fold rise in wild population of the species from about 10 to 22 during the last three-four years.



This prompted the Maharashtra Government to grant it in principle approval for sanctuary status, to ensure better protection and management of the species. Its major threats include interbreeding with feral and domestic buffalo, hunting/poaching and habitat loss/degradation.



Further, a recent meeting of the Maharashta State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) found Kolamarka to be a potential site for a time bound concrete national action plan for saving Asiatic wild buffaloes in Central India from the present population of about 50 to a target of 200. The efforts of local community have also been instrumental in achieving the success story.



This 180.72 sq kilometers of moist deciduous forest shares geographical contiguity with the Indravati Tiger Reserve (ITR) in the neighbouring State of Chhattisgarh. “While ITR enjoyed a historical presence of the species, extremism and rise in anthropogenic pressures in the reserve, resulted in migration of some wild buffalo herds to the bordering Kolamarka in Gadchiroli district for the past few years,” says Kishore Rithe, Member SBWL.



Founder of Satpuda Foundation that works for conservation of wildlife and forest, Rithe had been highlighting the issue since long and was instrumental in getting a conservation reserve status for Kolamarka in 2013.



The pristine forests of Kolamarka are naturally endowed with conditions favourable for the species. River Indravati River flowing in its vicinity has resulted in natural pools and water bodies in the forest that are ideal for the species to wallow in. Further, the vegetation of Kolamarka forests with its mosaic of tall grasslands provide the much required fodder for these herbivores. Most importantly, the forests have no villages within and there is hardly any cattle grazing pressure either.



The forest department along with Satpuda Foundation further supplemented these existing conditions by creating additional low cost water holes, more forest tanks, wallowing ponds etc. These interventions not only ensured distributed availability of water in the forest, even in the peak of summer, but most importantly provided opportunities for livelihood to the local villagers living in forest periphery.



“We also started putting up solar lights, bore wells, hand pump sets in villages and did other developmental work, which brought local communities closer to the department.  With lurking shadows of extremism from the nearby ITR, it was challenging for our forest staffs to venture for population monitoring, says Kalyankumar, Chief Conservator of Forest, Gadchiroli. Hence local youths were deployed with them, who were also paid honorarium for collecting information from deep inaccessible forests,” he adds.



A special monitoring team was further constituted with 10 members from local villages, who act as watch dogs in protecting the animals from poachers and hunters. In addition, three village eco development committees were also set up that work in tandem with the local forest staffs.




The local communities were also made to understand the ecological importance of the anima, says Rithe. While they are indicators of a healthy forests, their presence as prey species, also points to the probable presence of tigers in the region. But most importantly, they act as gene reservoirs in the wild for the future population of domestic/feral buffaloes and hence need to be preserved. 









Source: The Pioneer