Spanning a vast 75,000 sq. km from Odisha to southern Tamil Nadu, the Eastern Ghats is home to wide expanses of tropical deciduous and semi-evergreen forests as well as threatened animal populations such as elephants, Nilgiri Tahr, leopards, gaurs, sambar, and tigers.
The Eastern Ghats also contains the Nallamala landscape, one of India’s largest and most complex Protected Areas sprawling 5,600 sq kms. Since 2012, WCS-India has been involved in tiger and prey monitoring in the region, which includes the Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve (NSTR) in Andhra Pradesh and the Amrabad Tiger Reserve (ATR) in Telangana. Our work in the region has since expanded to human-wildlife conflict mitigation, voluntary relocation, capacity building workshops for law enforcement, legal interventions, community-based conservation interventions, and strengthening protected areas. Our long-term goal is to ensure there are thriving populations of all species of the Nallamalla landscape that are valued and embraced by society.
Tiger and prey monitoring
We assist the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Forest Departments in following scientific protocols for tiger and prey monitoring mandated by the National Tiger Conservation authority (NTCA). As their official partner, we conduct staff training on ecological monitoring to help them implement scientific protocols. Additionally, since 2010, we have been monitoring the dispersal of tigers and estimating prey densities in Kawal Tiger Reserve and its corridors in northern Telangana. All tigers captured over the years have been assigned unique IDs and their minimum home ranges and dispersal patterns logged in a database.
Since 2016, we have started the first prey estimation in ATR forming a set of permanently marked line transects. This study design was extended to NSTR in 2019 and we continue to monitor prey numbers in both tiger reserves.
We have helped in surveying 20,000 sq kms in Andhra Pradesh and 6,000 sq kms in Telangana for a state-wide Large Cell Occupancy (LCO) Survey. We assess the presence and distribution of tigers, co-predators and their prey in all possible potential wildlife habitats. We also record data on variables such as habitat condition and human disturbances. Our surveys have identified newer areas for tigers and prey distribution across large landscapes. Additionally, we assess the level of threats across the tiger landscape. Over the years we have identified imminent threats to tiger conservation and worked with the forest department on their mitigation.
WCS-India addresses human-wildlife conflict in and around tiger corridors and protected areas across the Eastern Ghats landscape by assisting Government efforts in crop protection and compensation, conducting regular de-snaring drives, and monitoring electric lines.
Crop protection and compensation
We help local villagers with crop protection and availing Government-funded crop damage compensation to address human-wildlife conflict in and around protected areas.
Cattle kill compensation
We assist farmers in availing Government-funded ex-gratia payments for cattle kills. We create information dissemination through awareness campaigns, posters , community meetings, etc.
WCS-India assists forest staff to remove snares across the landscape, found mainly in fringe villages with interfaces with forests and places frequented by animals like waterholes, salt licks, etc. Our snare removal strategy, supporting the Forest Department, has led to the removal of thousands of snares around tiger landscapes.
Monitoring of electric lines
Electric lines passing through forests are often used for hunting of wildlife. WCS-India maps electric lines which pose a grave danger to wildlife and routinely monitors these to ensure no live wires are installed to hunt animals. We keep local officials informed on any attempts of hunting wildlife or using electric lines for protection of crops.
We report infrastructure development projects undertaken without mandatory government permissions to the Forest Department and support them to ensure the mandatory clearances are obtained. We work with State-level committees to ensure proper mitigation methods are deployed to reduce environmental damage. We offer guidance on proper safeguards for developmental projects which could otherwise be detrimental to wildlife conservation.
As a member of the Human-Wildlife Conflict Committee of Andhra Pradesh, WCS-India is responsible for carnivore conflict management. We provide updates on mitigation strategies and are assisting in formulating a state-level policy for conflict management.
WCS-India assists villages that are interested in Government funded voluntary relocation. We are actively working on voluntary village relocation in 12 villages across protected areas in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. We help the Government in ensuring that voluntary relocation is equitable, transparent and accountable.
Capacity building workshops
We conduct many capacity building workshops, particularly in law enforcement, covering about 500 frontline staff in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana every year.
We partner with the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh forest departments and Telangana State Forest Academy to conduct regular training on ecological monitoring, including tiger and prey monitoring, and ecological methods. Till date, we have assisted in training over 2,100 frontline staff across both the states.
Forest officials are often attacked by people involved in nefarious activities. WCS-India’s initiative, “Defend the defenders” aims to provide legal, political and emotional support to forest staff when they are attacked or abused on duty. Under the initiative, we help in filing police complaints, approach senior government officials and draw media attention to these incidents.