Protect Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary

Guest writer Steven Katsineris with a piece calling for the protection of an Indian wildlife sanctuary. Steven Katsineris is an Australian free-lance writer of articles on Palestine, Cyprus and the rest of the Middle East region, political prisoners and human rights, environmental and social issues. He has been actively involved in the Palestine solidarity movement for over forty years. Steven lives with his family in Melbourne, Australia.

The Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in western India, in the far southern most part of Maharashtra State and is of great natural significance due to its amazing biodiversity. The sanctuary in the remote Yeotmal district has varied landscapes, from forested hills and gullies to mangrove swamps, with different types of luxuriant vegetation. Tipeshwar comprises a patch of dense southern tropical forest that is unique in the region. Tipeshwar is also home to a wide variety of wildlife, including several rare and threatened species of animals. Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary’s name derives its name from the Goddess Tipai and is located near the Tipeshwar Village. There are other villages located around the wildlife sanctuary and the local people depend on the forest for food, firewood, medicine, timber, amongst other things.

The Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of around 148.63sq.kms, with some of the most valuable remaining forest habitat in India and containing areas of rich and diverse plant communities. The main forest type is tropical dry deciduous forest tracts, including both natural forest and Teak forest plantations. There are also areas of Bamboo that occur as undergrowth in the Teak forests and in patches as Bamboo groves. As well, many herbs, grasses and other plant species are found in the sanctuary. The sanctuary has over 250 species of plants that are of considerable medicinal and economic importance.

Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary is home to many species of fauna, including rare and endangered mammals, such as Bengal Tigers, Panthers (black leopards that are more numerous than spotted ones here), Small Indian Civet Cat, Indian Jackal, Sloth Bear, Indian Pangolin, Dhole (Asiatic Wild Dog), Indian Wolf, Four Horned Antelope and Blackbuck. Other mammals found in the sanctuary are Jungle Cat, Blue Bull (an antelope species), Chital (Spotted Deer), Sambar, Barking Deer, Gaur (Indian Bison), Stripped Hyena, Wild Boar, monkeys, hares, etc.

An outstanding variety of bird species can be found in the sanctuary, with more than 180 species spotted here. These comprise nine species of endangered birds, including Peafowl’s and ten species of migratory birds.

The sanctuary is as well home to over 26 species of reptiles, with six species being endangered, such as Indian Cobra, India Rock Python, Rat Snake, Russel’s Viper, Checked Keel Back and Common Monitor Lizard.

Tipeshwar has become a popular eco-tourism location, with guided nature study tours and wildlife watching in the sanctuary. The main attractions for visitors are the Peacocks, Wild Boar, Sloth Bears and deer.

But in blatant violation of Indian forest and wildlife laws stone quarrying is being carried out 1.5km from the boundary of Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary and poses a serious threat to the sanctuary. According to Tipeshwar range forest officer (RFO) U. D. Chavhan, four stone quarries have been operating near the sanctuary since 1988 and 2007. These quarries fall within the eco-sensitive zone of the sanctuary that strictly bans mining and are causing widespread environmental degradation. The quarry mining has adverse effects on habitat and thus impacts badly on wildlife. Such mining activities are a threat to the five Bengal Tigers that have rediscovered the Tipeshwar Forest and now live there, as well as the long-term recovery of Tigers in the sanctuary.

"Quarrying is proving detrimental to wildlife... If grazing, road expansion and encroachments are burning issues, quarrying is adding fuel to fire," said R S Virani, a zoology lecturer working for conservation in Tipeshwar.

Last year conservationists like Virani and others foiled attempts to bring in new mining ventures in on nearby forest and agricultural land. The area where mining is proposed is a corridor connected to the sanctuary.

India has over the years made good progress in protecting Tigers and other endangered wildlife, but allowing habitat destruction adjacent to the sanctuary to continue puts these efforts in jeopardy. The loss of habitat corridors around the reserve seriously threatens the recovery of Tigers and the survival of other animals that occur in the sanctuary. Please help and support efforts by local conservationists by urging the state government to stop illegal quarries operating around Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary.

To help protect Tipeshwar and its wildlife, sign the petition.

No comments