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Greens say teak plantation in Melghat threatens wildlife

Activists attribute fall in number of monkeys and forest owlets to monoculture-style plantations, say different species of trees should be planted

Even though Melghat Tiger Reserve is known for its rich biodiversity, the abundant teakwood plantation in the area is threatening the population of wildlife such as monkeys and the critically endangered forest owlets, say environmental activists working in the region.


In Peril:The endangered forest owlet

Melghat forest has over nine tiger reserves based in Amravati in Vidarbha region that covers an area of about 1571.74 sq km. Activists claim that since the reserve acts like a buffer zone to the region, wrong and monoculture-style plantations are resulting in massive falling of leaves during the summer.


Teakwood plantations at the Melghat forest. PIC/Krunal Gosavi

The soaring temperature in the forest has been attributed to the teakwood plantation, which was introduced and carried out in large numbers almost four years ago. Environmentalist Nandini P said, "Due to shedding of leaves, there is no shade and all small water pools dry up leaving the animals dehydrated. The forest requires fruit bearing and flowering trees, not teak. Unfortunately the forest is no longer pristine like before. Wildlife and forests are interlinked, if one dies the other won't survive."

Activists have suggested that mixed native species of tress be planted to save wildlife. According to the sources in the forest department, there are about 7,000 monkeys and less than 100 forest owlet in the Melghat forest. Stalin D, director of Vanashakti, said, "Natural forest produces shelter and food, and plantation alone is not a substitute for conserving it. Earlier, rubber trees were planted in the area but they were for commercial purpose."      

When called V T Ghule, divisional forest officer of Amravati forest dept, he said, "The forest department is aware of the issue and has stopped planting teak trees. We have not planted a single teak tree since the past one year. Instead we have planted native species including bamboo and Bheda trees. The wildlife is not facing any problem."    

Melghat currently consists of 769 species of plants, 265 species of birds, 37 species of mammals and harbours around 50 tigers. Besides monkeys and forest owlets other animals found at Melghat are caracals, jackals, sloth bears, sambars, barking deer, nilgai, langurs, civets, flying squirrel, osprey, red headed falcons and Malabar pied hornbills.

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