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Special steps for grasslands in reserve

- Controlled fire to destroy unwanted floral species at tiger hub

Patna, Dec. 11: The Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR) management has decided to initiate special steps to develop grasslands in the big cats’ abode and get rid of unwanted floral species, proving detrimental to the herbivores.

VTR director Santosh Tiwari told The Telegraph over phone today that cold burning would be done in about 25 hectares of forest spread over Raghia, Ganauli and Valmikinagar ranges to get rid of unwanted floral species like mikenia for allowing the natural vegetation to grow.

The decision was taken after the visit of some experts to the reserve on December 8 and 9 for taking part in the two-day deliberation jointly organised by the state environment and forests department, Wildlife Trust of India and Nature and Biodiversity Conservation, a German agency.

The unwanted floral species make the task of finding suitable food difficult for herbivores — the prey base for the big cats. The VTR management would get rid of them through cold burning — a process in which controlled fire is used to destroy the unwanted floral species. Though the grasses consumed by herbivores get destroyed in the process, they grow again in a few months.

In addition to cold burning, the VTR management has decided to get rid of vast patches of elephant grasses in Madanpur range.

“But for few patches of such grasses, which work as shelter for the herbivores, we would burn the grasses and furrow the land so that fresh grasses, which are eaten by herbivores, could come up,” Tiwari said.

Besides, the VTR management has decided to develop another 100 hectares as grassland. Funds for this have been earmarked in the annual plan of operation of the reserve.

“After furrowing the area, grass seeds would be sown so that the desired vegeta- tion could develop on this area,” said the director, adding that the visit of the experts proved very helpful in fine-tuning the plan of developing grasslands.

Some of the prominent experts who visited the reserve were P.C. Kotwal, former faculty member of Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal, V.P. Singh, a zoology professor from Uttar Pradesh, and Lal Babu Bhandari, an official from Chitwan National Park of Nepal.

Kotwal, who has worked for 15 years in Kanha Tiger Reserve, and Singh made presentations on the steps needed to develop grasslands. The official from Nepal shared the details of the initiatives taken in his country for developing the grassland there.

Tiwari said the VTR management would organise more such programmes on different subjects related to the tiger reserve management, as they would help the field officials learn the latest practices.

“Moreover, the experts coming to reserve would know about the potential of our reserve and back us on different platforms after having a first-hand information about the VTR,” added Tiwari.