A Reprieve for the Wolves of Maidenahalli

The Indian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes), a subspecies of the Eurasian wolf (Canis lupus), found in the Himalayan ranges, is a lanky animal with short fur, about the size of a German Shepherd Dog. An estimated 2000-3000 of these animals now survive in India, mainly in the states of Orissa, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. They are wide ranging, pack hunting predators requiring large home ranges. As agriculture expanded rapidly in post independent India, wolves lost much of their habitat. They still come into conflict with humans, who hunt them down and kill cubs by smoking their dens.

In Karnataka wolves are spread over an estimated 123,330 sq km of grassland and scrubland habitat in the districts of Gulbarga, Bijapura, Bagalkote, Belgaum, Gadag, Koppal, Raichur, Bellary, Devanagere, Haveri, Chitradurga, Tumkur and Kolar. They are presumed extinct in Hassan, Bangalore, Mysore and Chamrajnagara Districts, where they were once common.

The depletion of natural prey such as blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) and chinkara (Gazella bennettii) has put the remaining wolves on a collision course with goat and sheepherders. H.N. Kumara and Mewa Singh of Mysore University estimated the wolf population in the state at around 550 in a paper published in 2005. They also estimated that during 2001-2002 people killed 49 wolves.

Although Melukote Wildlife Sanctuary in Mandya District is the one of the few wolf sanctuaries in the country, it is doubtful whether any wolves survive here. Ranebennur and Daroji Wildlife Sanctuaries of Karnataka have small populations. Predominantly, wolves in Karnataka and elsewhere are found in Territorial Forest Divisions, which do not have management plans for wildlife. Worse still, a lot of wolf habitat is revenue land, which can be apportioned overnight for all manner of development activities with no concern its the fauna or flora.

Maidenahalli in Madhugiri Taluk of Tumkur District was one such area. However, thanks to lobbying by naturalists and conservationists concerned about the wolf population of Maidenahalli, Mr. Bhaskar, who was the Deputy Commissioner of the District agreed to transfer the land rights to the Karnataka Forest Department. Unfortunately, he would not transfer the ownership of the land to the Forest Department, leaving it vulnerable to development and land grabbing. Luckily, in 1998, his successor, Mr. Gopal Krishna Gowda, who was sympathetic to wildlife and understood the urgent need to safeguard the wolves, took the necessary steps to transfer the land to the Forest Department. In 2007 Maidenahalli was declared a Conservation Reserve, thus strengthening its legal status. A valuable, but unsung wolf habitat was saved thanks to the efforts of conservationists and sympathetic government officials.

About the author

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Sanjay Gubbi is an award-winning conservation scientist whose work has resulted in several important successes.


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