Status and Distribution of Malabar Giant Squirrel Ratufa indica in Western Ghats of Maharashtra, India



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Status of R. indica in Kolhapur Division: Though there are primary forests in Kolhapur Division, giant squirrel presence was not as expected. The entire landscape is a matrix of Private Forests interspersed with Primary Forests , cultivation and plantations. Kolhapur Division has several development projects. Some of which are mentioned below:




  • Mining at boundary in Kalgoan.

  • Dam near Jalugade forests of Patan, Wesruf village of Gaganbhavda, Pombre of Panhala.

  • Dam constructed 20 to 25 years back at Kodhey Bhudruk of Gaganbhavda range. Forest areas destroyed and trees cut to build dam and create the reservoir area.

  • Proposed dam at Mhalunge forests of Patan, in Kolik and Tilari of Patane in good forest areas.

  • In Jambre of Chandgad region, 49 ha out of 64 ha forest area has been cleared for dam construction

  • Road construction in Manoli forest in Malkapur.

  • Established temple and Bauxite mining in encroached lands in Udgiri in Malkapur

Apart from these, large areas exist as Private Forests and the owners use the forests as per their discretion by harvesting firewood and timber for selling them for commercial purpose or for cultivating exotic plantations. There was large scale felling of trees by locals from the reserved forests during the month of May. They store this firewood for using during the monsoon season.


Signs of lopping were very high in Kolik of Patane, Warki in Pendhakale and Wagothri of Chandgad. In other ranges like Ajara, Pattan, Radhanagari, Gaganbhavda, Kaladunk, Goatney, Malkapur and Panhala lopping sings were of moderate level. Lopping has caused frequent breaks in forest structure and there are open patches in the forests. In open areas, weeds like Karvi have invaded the forests and can be seen as thick undergrowth in Matherpet, Gajapur and Manzare in Pendakale, Manoli in Malkapur, open grasslands and thorn patches as in Borbet of Gaganbhavda. Owing to heavy human activity in this division forests have degraded from semi evergreen to fragmented forests. Degradation is high towards forest boundaries.

T
Encroachemnt in forests in Mahalunge
ree cutting in Malkapur




Evangeline Arulmalar
There are many irrigations tanks and canals in the area because of sugarcane and plantation crops. Signs of forest fires were observed from Patne, Tilari Area, Berki and Anuskara in Pendakheda, Manoli and Udgiri in Malkapur, Kalgoan, Parpoli, Aundi, Dhangarmola round of Ajara and Kolik of Patane . These forests are now in secondary stage. In Manzare Forests in Gaydawaday beat in Pendakhale Range, the forest staff had set fire to clear the area for plantations.
There is an active bauxite mine in Udgiri in Malkapur Range. Loaded trucks ply through the day on the road creating severe air and noise pollution. There are 20 ft tall primary forests for nearly 100 to 150 m on either side of the Udgiri road but they are covered with thick layer of dust forests and completely brown in appearance. Sacred groove in Udgiri were devoid of squirrels as the whole area is degraded and disturbed due to large number of pilgrims visiting the area.
Signs of livestock grazing, especially that of goats were observed from all areas including Kaladunk, Goatney, Padasaley of Panhala Range.
Negative impact of tourism could be seen at Tilari of Patne, Wagzarai in Amba of Malkapur, Parale & Bhaivai Devarai, Ajara, Mhalunge forests of Patan, Wagothri of Chandgad, Borbet of Gaganbhavda, Udgiri in Malkapur, Matherpet, and Gajapur of Pendakale
Presence of domestic dogs was observed inside the forests in Dhangarmola round of Ajara, Mhalunge forests of Pattan, in Kolik of Patane, Wagothri of Chandgad and Warki in Pendakheda.

An instance of squirrel racing across the road was recorded near Waghotri though there was canopy continuity in the forests for squirrels to jump across. Near Jalgude, a giant squirrel was observed to come near the ground with a troop of Hanuman langurs. This could be an interaction of play between langurs and squirrels.


Hunting of wildlife was earlier reported in Ketwade and Parpoli of Ajara, Borbet of Gaganbhavda, Pombre of Panhala, Berki and Anuskara of Pendakale and Manoli in Malkapur Range. Since last 10 to 15 years, hunting is completely banned in these areas. Hunting by the Dhangar for food was previously pronounced but now is less intense in Kolik of Pattane and in some parts of Ajara and Gargoti areas. These tribes are now dependent on forest and agricultural products for food. Some hunting of Barking deer and Porcupine are reported in Warki of Pendakale. Hunting of wild boar, Hare, Sambar, Barking deer and MGSq for consumption are still prevalent in Parale and Mhalunge in Patan range.
In Ajra and Gargoti, no change in population trend of squirrel was perceived but in Patne and Panhala, local staff reported a decline in squirrel population. Another old villager named Shamrav Bhosle, from Iyamavedi village, reported an increase in squirrel population due to an increase in protection and ban on hunting in Malkapur range.
Radhanagri Sanctuary
Topography and Vegetation: Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Radhanagari Taluka of Kolhapur district and on the border of Kolhapur and Sindhudurg Districts. The Sanctuary lies between the Shahu Sagar and Laxmi Sagar reservoirs which supplies water to entire city of Kolhapur. Radhanagri and Kalamwadi are two dams within the Sanctuary. This area was earlier the hunting grounds of Royal family of Kolhapur but since 1968 it has been converted in to a Protected Area. The terrain is undulating with steep escarpments and dense forests. The uniqueness of this place is that the topography of entire protected area is undulating and steep with a high percentage of bauxite ore.
The forests in this area are typically semi-evergreen, evergreen and moist deciduous type. Major tree species seen here are Memecylon umbellatum, Terminalia chebula, Careya arborea and Lagerstroemia microcarpa (Ghate et al 1994). There is an active bauxite mine on the eastern boundary of Radhanagri WLS.
Forest areas visited include the Dajaipur range and Konoli beat in the Radhanagari range. It requires more areas to be surveyed to completely represent the sanctuary

Status of R.indica in Radhanagri WLS: The occurrence of giant squirrels is common in the Dajipur range. During 1984-85, patches near Konkauli beat were clear-felled and burnt for shifting cultivation and now these forests are regenerating as secondary forests. There are a few fragmented patches with open canopy in this area but they are connected to the Primary forests so overall canopy contiguity is maintained here.
Table 6.20 Count of R. indica in Kolhapur Division





Total Effort (km)

Sightings

Calls

Nest (Old + New)

Borges et al (1998)

NA

NA

NA

NA

Kolhapur Division

152.4

2

12

291

Radhanagri WLS

27.92

2

3

43


Table 6.21 Encounter Rates of R indica in Kolhapur Division


Ranges

Sighting

Calls

New Nest

Old Nests

Radhanagri WLS

0.04 (0.04)

0.07 (0.07)

0.85(0.37)

0.49 (0.28)

Ajra

0

0.05 (0.05)

0.67(0.28)

0.47(0.15)

Chandgad

0

0.16 (0.13)

4.26 (1.17)

0.35(0.2)

Ganganbavda

0.03(0.03)

0.08 (0.06)

1.02 (0.34)

0.55(0.25)

Gargoti

0

0

0.63 (0.44)

0.94 (0.66)

Kadgoan

0

0

0.06(0.05)

0

Malkapur

0.02(0.02)

0.07(0.07)

2.07(0.8)

1.04(0.4)

Panhala

0

0.03(0.2)

0.45(0.17)

0.42(0.17)

Patne

0

0

2.18(0.99)

1.57(0.18)

Pendhakheda

0

0

1.36(0.60)

1.04(0.44)

Radhanagri

0

0

3.44

0

Figures in parentheses represent standard error.


Signs of Anthropogenic Influences in the Forests


Evangeline Arulmalar and Tushar Pawar
6.10 Human -Squirrels Conflict
The current survey was carried out in an extensive geographic area of Maharashtra Western Ghats. Due to the vastness of the area and onset of monsoons in the month of June, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts could not surveyed. Both are coastal districts and Sindhudurg has highest forest cover in the State but it is rapidly being lost due to commercial plantations, mining and agricultural expansion. We were informed that since last 5 years, giant squirrel have started entering plantation orchards in towns nears Sawantwadi Range. The research team made a quick visit to a few villages and confirmed that the giant squirrels have been feeding on coconut, banana and cashew plantations. The farmers claim to suffer high financial losses as these are commercial crops. The farmers shoot the squirrel with guns to prevent them from feeding on the crops. This is a serious issue as a lot of the area is being converted in commercial plantations in Sindhudurg.
Signs of Giant Squirrel feeding on coconut and cashew fruits in Sawantwadi


Evangeline Arulmalar
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