The Prolonged drought in the state is not just making life miserable for farmers. Karnataka’s wildlife population, which relies on rivers, streams and ponds for survival, too is bearing the brunt of scanty rainfall. The worst since 1972, Karnataka’s drought has left animals, especially elephants and tigers, in dire straits.
The worst hit of the lot is the jumbo population in the elephant ranges of Rajiv Gandhi National Park (Nagarhole), home to largest number of Asian elephants, followed by tigers in Bandipur, Bhadra and Anshi-Dandeli tiger reserves. “Lack of rain has altered their routine and they are increasingly raiding neighbouring farms in search of food and water. Elephants require huge quantities of water both for bathing and drinking,” said officials from the state forest department.
The good news, however, is that parts of Karnataka have been receiving rain for the past 2-3 days, signs that things might improve if the skies open up over the next couple of weeks.
With traditional water resources drying up, the situation in most forest areas is grim. Wildlife activists are also worried that poachers could target animals stepping out of their habitats in search of water. Further, destruction of close to 2, 500 acres of forest cover in different incidents is making life miserable for the residents of the wild.
“We are doing our best to quench their thirst; we are getting tankers to fill waterholes frequented by animals. But we have been struggling due to the magnitude of drought this time,” said forest minister Ramanath Rai.
However, not everyone has been welcoming of the government’s attempts at filling the waterholes. “Drought is part of a complex natural climate cycle. There’s no need for the forest department to fill up the innumerable waterholes using tankers. Such unscientific ideas must be ignored. The goal should be to conserve wildlife and its habitats with minimal human intervention,” said Praveen Bhargav, trustee, Wildlife First.
Some wildlife activists said the government wasn’t doing enough to meet the water requirements of the state’s wildlife population, though it has allocated funds worth crores for villages reeling under the dry spell.
Another concern has been the rise in diseases among wild animals, again as a result of drought. C P Chethan, a vet, said dead animals and polluted water are playing havoc with lives of animals. Chethan pointed out how animals are falling sick after consuming contaminated water and said many such incidents have gone unreported in the last two months.
SHELTERED IN THE WILD
* Karnataka forests support 25% of elephant and 15% of India’s tiger population
* State is home to five major national parks, 27 wildlife sanctuaries, seven conservation reserve and one community reserve
* Karnataka, declared the No.1 state in terms of India’s tiger population, has five tiger reserves
* It has the largest elephant population in the country (6,088 as per 2012 census)