Project Title: Habitat Restoration to reduce Human Wildlife Conflict near Mudhumalai, India
AoF: Environment Action Goal: 1 Hands on Conservation (a) biodiversity
Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) (11º32' - 11º43'N, 76º22' - 76º45'E) lies on the northern flank of the Nilgiri Mountain Range in the Western Ghats and is contiguous with Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in the west, Bandipur Tiger Reserve in the north, and Nilgiris Forest Division in the south. The MTR also forms part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The area is renowned for its rich ecological diversity of flora and fauna. This is a Project Tiger Reserve and is home to endangered species like tigers, vultures (critically endangered), elephants, and birds, like the Great Indian Hornbills. The total area of the MTR is 588.59 km2 of which the core zone is attributed to 321 km2 (1). The buffer region has villages made up of tribal populations who use Non-Timber Forest Produce, have cattle, as well as small land holdings for subsistence agriculture. The livelihood opportunities are few, so most youth are leaving the area to look for jobs in nearby cities. Cattle is a mainstay for most populations.
Problem: The area in the buffer as well as the core zone has been over-run with invasive species of (click here Lantana camara), (click here Senna spectabilis), Parthenium spp. to name a few. Of these, Lantana and Senna spread very easily and in areas without intervention, form a mid-canopy. This reduces availability of grass and makes areas inaccessible to ungulates who are the prey to the larger carnivores. Elephants cannot move through most of these areas easily. Both these lead to human-animal conflict with depredation of cattle (2) as well as elephants getting into crop land and habitation. Lantana also has the propensity to burn easily in the wildfire season, along with Parthenium, and poses a huge concern for the Forest Department. Senna spectabilis must be uprooted and replaced immediately with fast growing plant species, or other invasives too spreads fast.
We have had participatory mapping as uprooting of these invasive species but due to labor and financial issues it has been a sporadic effort
Proposal: Rotary Club of Nilgiris West proposes, with the support of the NGO Arulagam, to address the issues of:
1) Removal of 75 acres of Lantana camara over three years, along with adding grass seeds at the time of removal to reduce regrowth of lantana in areas with low and medium infestation, as mapped. Root-cut-stock method will be employed. Training is provided by Society of Ecological Restoration (SER) members from Junglescapes who have restored over 1500 acres in the Tiger Reserve in the neighboring state of Karnataka. With the recent Madras High court order (5) directing Forest Department to release MGNREGA funds to remove invasives, there is greater interest in working on this restoration project.
2) MGNREGA funds amount to one hundred days work to an individual with INR 175 given for a day's work. Normal labour charges are INR 450/day. The balance of the MGNREGA amount to cover a day's income will be covered by the grant for the grant period. As the lantana repurposing unit gets set into a supply chain model, the income will cover the extra amount for labour as well as running other aspects of the project.
3) Setting up a lantana repurposing unit to convert lantana into plywood. which can be used for any packing or carpentry purposes. We are working on the supply chain right now. This will be done in a local area thereby providing income, keeping youth working in the area, as well as provide funds to keep it economically sustainable (6). Once Rotary intervention is over Arulagam will take this enterprise over.
4) Cattle is the major income generator with the tribal villages. There is cattle depredation, around 73 in 2019-2020 with over 30 kills by tigers. The cattle are insured and once a veterinarian examines the carcass, there is a form given to the owner if there has been depredation, the owner can apply for compensation which will come in 4-6 months.
6) Grass seeds will be collected and used for broadcast in the areas where lantana has been removed.
7) The repurposing unit will employ people to come in and work. There is little skill upgradation required. The unit will be set up on leased land and a lease for ten years will be executed. Further lease agreements will be undertaken by Arulagam.
8) Cattle is also a major food resource for the critically endangered vultures in the region (1). To kill predators, villagers sometimes poison the carcass. Other feature is NSAIDS, and other medicines given by vets to cattle that lead to vulture death. Towards this we are planning field visits of vets and their exposure to NSAIDS and how they kill vultures. This awareness campaign will also take place in veterinarian colleges.
9) Awareness of the effect of medicines to their cattle is also done for the villagers periodically.
10)A citizen's team from the villages are trained to be community conservationists for:
a. Giving the number and species of vultures seen b. Map of nests
Community Assessment: PRA of six villages completed.
• Human-animal conflict • Cattle depredation
• Community economic development - lantana removal and repurposing
• Insurance for cattle when wild animals take them • Self help group set up
Lantana removal: 20 men
Grass seed collection: 5-6 women who will also work in the repurposing unit Lantana repurposing: Payment per piece so many people can work. No skill upgradation required.
Total : $ 1,29,344.10
DDF From Host district $20,000 available
Club Support $15, 000
Project Start Time: January 2023
End time Dec 2026
No of Direct Beneficiaries: 35
No. Of Indirect Beneficiaries: 2000
Habitat Restoration and reduction in Humanb Wildlife conflict