Wild buffaloes get protection

180-sq-km area declared conservation reserve.

The fast depleting population of wild buffaloes in Kolamarka area in Gadchiroli district has finally got legal protection. A 180-sq km area, where 18 animals are said to be surviving, has been declared as "conservation reserve".

The state government issued a notification on Monday. The state board for wildlife had cleared the proposal last week.

A conservation reserve is different from a sanctuary in that it involves people's participation in protection. In a sanctuary, stress is on making the area inviolate (without human population). For Kolamarka area, which is highly Naxal-affected, conservation reserve was preferred over sanctuary, sources said.

The wildlife wing of Maharashtra, NGOs Satpuda Foundation and Wildlife Trust of India and International Union for Conservation of Nation (IUCN) had arranged a national-level workshop here in November last to discuss strategies to save wild buffaloes.

"We now need livestock and water management in these areas to reduce biotic pressures on the reserve. There is no reason why the wild buffalo population will not bounce back," Kishor Rithe of Satpuda Foundation and member of National Board for Wildlife said. "Poaching only has brought the buffalo population down."

"Actually, a sanctuary would have been a better idea but some forest officials have been discounting the possibility, citing the Naxal issue. However, officers like Sironcha DFO Shri Laxmi are doing a good job by regularly patrolling in the area," he said.

Declining population

Wild buffaloes are facing extinction in Asia. In Central India, the Asiatic wild buffalo (Bubalus arnee) population declined by about 80 per cent between 1966 and 1992. It is now likely to be less than 200 individuals in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. There are stable populations of the buffalo in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

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