India — Bandipur is prone to forest fires that are all man-made and this has a direct bearing on man-animal conflict in the long run. Though the fire tends to devastate the green cover of the forests, the vegetation tends to recover over the years. But the problem arises when there are repeated fires year-after-year resulting in the destruction of the humus content and micro organisms in the top soil that retards the growth of vegetation.
D. Rajkumar of the Wildlife Conservation Foundation told The Hindu that fire-resistant species like lantana and eupatorium have proliferated in Bandipur and cover about 65 per cent of the 88sqkm of the tourism zone.
The herbivore animals do not find lantana edible and hence abandon the degraded habitat. Bandipur, Kalkere, Begur, Gundre, Chowdally have a high visible growth of lantana and repeated fires have degraded the habitat.
But around the degraded forest patches are villages with lush green agricultural crops and herbivores – mostly elephants naturally get attracted and raid the fields resulting in conflict situation, said Mr. Rajkumar. Once the herbivores which are prey animals abandon the habitat, carnivores like tigers, leopards etc which feed on them, too are forced to abandon the habitat that becomes bereft of any diversity. A biomass study conducted a few years ago indicated that there were 1,500 grass seeds of 9 species in a square foot of the sample area in Bandipur. When fire breaks out, vegetation is destroyed and diversity declines. If the outbreak of forest fires could be prevented for five to six years, then it will help forests to regenerate there will be fodder which will reduce man-animal conflict in the long run, Mr. Rajkumar added. Though forest fires are common in the national park, Kundagere, Himmavad Goplaswamy Betta, Maliyuru, Omkara and N. Beguru are reckoned to be vulnerable.
Fire-resistant species like lantana and eupatorium have proliferated in Bandipur and cover about 65 per cent of the 88 sqkm of the tourism zone