India — More than the forest fire it is the subsequent loss of natural habit that will severely affect endemic, rare, and critically endangered animals in Seshachalam and Nallamala forests. These two important forests witnessed about half a dozen fires in the last five days. Hundreds of hectares of greenery were reduced to ashes in the forest fires.
While the fire in Seshachalam began on March 18, Nallamala witnessed three fires since March 19. Making true the fears of environmentalists that the wild fauna may enter into human habitation due to forest fires, a herd of deer was seen moving in Tirupati three days after the fire broke out in Seshachalam.
Experts say the forest fire may actually do not cause much damage to the wild fauna as most of the animals are instinctively adapted to escaping sudden fire mishaps in the jungles. Post forest fires, the animals may not be able to find a suitable location and they are forced to venture out of the woods into nearby human habitations in search of food and water.
“The TTD has contacted the divisional forest officer, wildlife, Tirupati, to ensure that wild animals do not enter into the human habitation areas in Tirumala,” TTD executive officer MG Gopal pointed out. A part of the Seshachalam biosphere is under the control of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. It has its own forest watchers.
The Seshachalam forest has been witnessing fire mishaps quite regularly causing heavy damage to the habitat of animals. There have been several instances of animal-human conflict in the ghat roads as well as pedestrian pathways to Tirumala, causing injuries to pilgrims. Attacks by leopards have been reported on the pedestrian pathways. A boy was injured by a wild cat in September last year. The continuous loss of forest cover due to fires will only add to the conflict, it is feared.
Forest officials are assessing the exact damage to flora and fauna in the ongoing forest fire. Tirupati wildlife management DFO G Srinivasulu said the forest department will take stock of the loss after the fire is put off.
Some of the animal species thriving in the Seshachalam biosphere are unique, and they are not found anywhere on the earth. It is difficult to estimate the damage caused to such endemic fauna. Ecologists fear that though big mammals and birds may have survived the inferno, reptiles and small mammals may have been burnt to death. Many may have died due to thick smoke.
“Modification of habitat may create more problems to the wild fauna. The denudation of the greenery causes more harm to animals than the forest fire itself. As greenery is lost, animals, particularly endemic, may not find it easier to survive. This forces them to come out of forests in search of new habitat. There may also be steep decline in the population of small animals in the aftermath of forest fires,” warns environmentalist B Krishnam Raju.