It should sound a good news for wildlife lovers. Tigers have staged a comeback in Jalgaon district in Dhule territorial circle after a long gap.
However, Khandesh Nature Conservation Society (KNCS), working for tiger conservation in Jalgaon forest division, claims tigers were very much there but there was no serious monitoring by the department.
Wadoda range forest officer (RFO) DR Patil has been monitoring a tigress with a cub for the past three months. Patil also claims presence of a male tiger in his range. The tigers have made densely forested Purna backwaters their home.
"This is after 2001 that tigers have staged a comeback in Jalgaon division. In 2001, there was tigress with three cubs," Patil said. It seems tigers move from Melghat-Ambabarwa-Yawal-Western Ghats.
However, Abhay Ujagare and Vinod Patil of KNCS say presence of tigers is there in Jalgaon district since 1993 but due to lack of serious monitoring their existence could not be ascertained.
However, if official tiger figures are to be considered, there were 7 tigers in Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary in Jalgaon, followed by 3 in 1993, 4 in 1997 and 1 in 2001. Since then no tigers were recorded in the protected area (PA). Besides, the last official record of tigers in Jalgaon division was in 2005 when three tigers were recorded.
"In past few years the newly added Wan and Ambabarwa to Melghat tiger reserve has improved protection and management. Several evidences of breeding tigresses have been recorded in camera traps from this cluster," said Kishor Rithe, member of National Board for Wild Life (NBWL).
Rithe said there were unconfirmed tiger sighting reports in the past two years by villagers and local nature lovers in Jalgaon district. Presence of tigers shows that they are dispersing towards west in Jalgaon district.
The forest range Kurha (Wadoda) includes Kurha, Charthana and Dolarkheda rounds. The area of three beats North Dolarkheda (2,100 ha), South Dolarkheda (1,500 ha) and Sukali (1,450 ha) of Dolarkheda round in Kurha range is the most potential area for tigers having 10 perennial waterholes. Rithe's Satpuda Foundation has urged the state government to provide necessary wildlife management inputs to this area.
If you peep into history, tigers and lions used to live together in Gujarat. Tigers disappeared from Gujarat in the 1980s whereas lions could manage to survive. The last tiger seen in Gujarat is reported from Dang district bordering Maharashtra. Satpuda mountain is spread up to Dang district where it meets Western Ghats and Aravali mountain.
The tiger habitat continuity link is considered from Kanha-Pench (Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh)-Satpuda-Melghat and Yawal. Local bird watcher Anil Mahajan from Varangaon (Jalgaon) had recorded a dead cub last year. This is a proof that tigers are breeding in Jalgaon district and earlier claims made by KNCS were also true.
Conservationists were dreaming in last 20 years that tigers would again disperse towards west to Melghat. The state expert committee to declare critical tiger habitats (CTH) ex-PCCF B Majumdar, ex-APCCF Nandkishore and Kishor Rithe had recommended a compact cluster of Wan, Ambabarwa and Narnala sanctuaries adjoining Melghat to be included in MTR, which was accepted by the state and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
Now it is high time this corridor is restored degraded forest towards west of Melghat to bring back tigers in Jalgaon and Dhule districts.