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Conservationists urge Odisha govt to declare Mahendragiri as biosphere reserve

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BERHAMPUR (ODISHA), Dec 10: Conservationists have urged the Odisha government to declare Mahendragiri in Gajapati district as a biosphere reserve following the sighting of a Royal Bengal Tiger in the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border, recently.

The male tiger from Maharashtra’s Bramhapuri division in the Tadoba reached the border area of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh after travelling around 2000 km covering four states – Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha – in search of a territory and mate.

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The tiger is now roaming in the border of Gajapati and Rayagada districts, said S Anand, divisional forest officer (DFO) Paralakhemundi.

The tiger might have explored the new territory in the forest areas of Gajapati district. Now is the right time, the government should declare the Mahendragiri forest area as a biosphere reserve to improve the habitat for tigers and to provide protection to big cats, said S N Patra, president of Odisha Environment Society (OES).

Lala A K Singh, a tiger researcher, said the declaration of biosphere reserve was a good way to involve the people in the protection of animals and their habitat.

“The recent sighting of RBT is an additional qualifier as regards possible attraction for large carnivores,” said Singh.

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It’s a good sign that a tiger from Maharashtra was exploring its territory near Mahendragiri. After improving its habitat and declaring it as a biosphere reserve, more big cats might be attracted to the area, he said.

Patra, a former professor, said the state government in 2011 had constituted a committee to study its feasibility to make it a biosphere reserve. The committee had found all criteria were fulfilled to make it a biosphere reserve, he said.

Mahendragiri, one of the critical mountain ecosystems in southern Odisha having rich biodiversity was declared as the biodiversity heritage site by the state government in November last year.

The state biodiversity board has identified about 1,348 species of plants including two of gymnosperms and 1,042 of angiosperms, 60 species of bryophytes, 53 of lichens and 72 of macro fungi in the hill.

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The hill ecosystem includes 388 species of animals, 27 species of mammals, 165 species of birds, 23 species of snakes, 15 species of amphibians, 3 species of turtles, 19 species of lizards, 100 species of butterflies and 36 species of moths.

It also represents 40 per cent of reported higher plant species in the state, sources said.

DFO, Paralakhemundi said they have already submitted a report to the government about the Biosphere reserve in Mahendragiri. (PTI)

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