Wednesday, September 15, 2010

konehalli Amrithmahal Grassland/Kaval

Maithreya has serious concerns about massive plantation of fast growing monatomic species and upcoming projects planned in this area by LR&IC(A) Particularly as such development is proceeding in the absence of reliable data on the environmental implications.
With this in mind, an preliminary and rapid biodiversity assessment was conducted from June 27th to June 30th 2009, to gather information about the present diversity of flora and fauna of the area. The principle investigators and volunteers across the state were invited to help in making this assessment. However, given limited resources, the study could not be detailed and comprehensive as the principal investigators would have liked. It is thus more in the nature of a rapid inventorization of the area. It is the opinion of the study’s authors that given sufficient time and resources, a more thorough study would yield even more significant data in terms of biodiversity and the ecological value of the area.
Later in time and again field visits by Bird watchers, and wild life photographers has helped in gathering more information.
The result validate the concerns that has been expressed over the possible and probable implications of the project and make it clear that massive plantations of alien species/sylvipasture cannot go ahead and necessary precaution should be taken at the site of piggery project where endangered Blackbucks moves regularly in herds.
Principal Investigator:
Mr. Shivaprakash Advanne, Member BNHS and MAN Mysore
Mr. Manu krishnamurthy, Secretary, MAN Mysore
Mr. Raviprakash, Member, Man Mysore
Mr. Guruprasad, Shivamoga
Mr. Ravikumar, Mysore
Ms.Dhayani, Chennai
Ms.Aparna V Kolekar. Bangalore
Ms. Deepika, Member, MAN Mysore
Mr. Santhosh, Member, Wildlife Conservation Society, Bangalore
Ms. Vatsala C.S , Maithreya, Tiptur
Mr. Shadakshara Devaru , Environmentalist, Tiptur
Mr. Ashok, Member, Karnataka Rajya Vignana Parishat, Arasikere
Dr. Paramshiviaha, Chief Farm Consultant, LR&IC(A), Konehalli.

The Live stock Research and Information center (Amrit mahal), Konehalli earlier has been projected as one of the largest grazing ranch known as Bidarammanagudi kavalu is part of the four century old cattle ranch Amrit mahal Kaval. Amrit mahal cattle still exists in Tumkur, Chitradurga, Chikkamangalore and Hassen districts and are being selectively bred and reared by the farmers over centuries. In addition, animals are also maintained by the KVA&FSU, which act as Nucleus Breeding Stations for production of seed stock particularly male calves and also to maintain breed purity and its enhancement.

Bidarammanagudi Kaval which is located in south western part of Tiptur taluk, of Tumkur districts, Karnataka, shares its border with nine villages. Clockwise from the south, these villages include Gyaraghatta, Hosahatti, Ramenahalli, Lakkihalli, Bidaregudi, Siddhapura, Konehalli, Aadihalli, Thimmanahalli, and Kabbinakere.
Before human disturbance and the wide spread introduction of non native species, native grasses commonly grew on the LR&IC(A), Konehalli farm (earlier known as Bidarammanagudi kavalu with the unique eco-system) Unfortunately non native species tes the 60% of LR&IC(A), Konehalli farm and their natural distribution has affected the ecosystem by losing biodiversity, species extinction and ecosystem services.
Total Area (Fenced 1547 acres)

a. Livestock Research and Information centre Area
(KVA&FSU) - 1357.5 acres (Map - A)
b. Agriculture Research station - 165 acres.
c. Perimeter - More than 20kms.
d. Land Type - Cultivable, non-cultivable and rocky out
crops with worn out soil.
Given the size of the plantation area and the piggery project plans in the area, concerns have been raised in various quarters about the possible impacts on the biodiversity and wildlife in the surrounding grassland area which is ecologically sensitive. However , while there is few debate and conjecture among nature lovers and environmentalist, there has been hitherto little or no reliable scientific data on which to base claims of potential damage or otherwise.
In order to gather a quick snapshot overview of these aspects, the following were agreed on as key indicators:

1.Primary documentation of biodiversity of the LR&IC(A) station and surrounding areas, by inventorisation of flora and fauna.
2.Status evaluation of the native grass species and other herbivores creatures.
3.Collection of secondary information on the movement of Black Bucks, Wolfs and other creatures in the area.
The areas surveyed were along the Konehalli, Mudalakavalu point to kavalbandamma site and watersheds like Gurusiddanakatte and other were also surveyd for birds and animals. The northern most coordinate of the study area was (Kavalabandamma) 13°17′ 37N & 76°22′ 15E Gurusiddhanakatte 13°17′ 22N & 76°17′ 53E And the southern most coordinate was (Konehalli) 13°16′ 53N & 76°22′ 45E.
The area covered while surveying was more than 1750 acres i.e, LR&IC(A) research station and adjoining nine villages. For the connivance the land was divided in to three sectors as fallows.

Sector I : Mudala kavalu
Sector II : Gurusiddana katte
Sector III : Kaval Bandhamma.

The study was carried out by walking all along the area covering nine village surrounding the LR&IC(A), Konehalli, to document the vegetation, species distribution and other relevant information regarding wild animals, eg: Documentation of animals. The study was also supported with photo documentation.
Given resource and time constraints micro monitoring of the area was not possible, but assessment reinforces the need for a more comprehensive study.

Key findings

The Konehalli farm is interspersed with thorn forest. Over-utilization and misuse of these common grazing lands has led to their degradation. In the past grass covered areas were considered to be the common property of a village community. However due to our ever increasing population these grassland are being converted into agricultural lands through the development of dams and canals. Ecologists estimate that more that 43% of the Indian subcontinent is in the process of changing from grassland to desert.
During the biodiversity mapping, all along the Sector-I i.e., Mudala kavalu to sector-III
i.e. Kavalbandamma, some of the very important Indian animals such as the blackbuck and endangered Wild bores, Jackals and birds like the White-bellied minivet (1096)
Pericrocotus erythropygius, Stone-Curlew (435-436) Burhinus oedicnemus and also 5 varieties of babblers and the rare one is White-headed Babbler (1267-1268) Turdoides affinis were recorded.
During four day assessment, the human activity like sand and stone mining, wood logging, illicit grazing by surrounding villagers (more than 1000 animals), and poaching were found incessantly. Present study results consisting of 76 species of birds, 278 species of flora (out of which 30% are introduced) and 48 species of butterflies confirms the healthy semi-arid Grassland habitat. But to study the grass yield time and kind of protection to restore the biodiversity, the density, diversity indices, cluster analysis, feeding guild analysis effect of grassland bird community and comparative study of birds and insects assemblage of this grassland has to be made.


Two hundred and seventy eight specie of flora belonging to seventy six family, both native and introduced were recorded from the study area. These species are providing an optimum habitat and serves as nursery for some rare species of birds, butterfly’s and animals. Twelve species of Poaceae (grass) were identified out of which Cymbopogon caesius was found only at sector-I with less than minimum distribution, Aristida hystriv and Aristida setaces belonging to Poaceae (grass) family is near to extinction in this area. The grassland has wild bushes and weed growth and thorn-scrub vegetation is taking over the pasture. Introduced trees like Eucalyptus citriodora,Pongamia pinnata,and acacia Arabica has taken over the 30% of area at sector-I and 80% at sector-II .Over grazing has not given this grassland a chance to recover. Consequently, perennial grasses are replaced by seasonal varieties that which has a low nutrition value and reduced carbon storage potential.
Invasive alien species weeds viz., Lantana, Eupatorium and Parthenium which are known to release chemicals that inhibit the germination of native grasses have taken their toll by spreading massively in the farm land with the help of over grazing and fire. An annual assessment in different seasons would yield more species of native flora.
Wherever the sylvipasture and grassland development schemes are implemented, those areas remained as wastelands with jungle growth. Sylvipasture is supposed to be implemented outside the farms on private land and village commons, respectively.
The Farms implemented sylvipasture (with Alien and monotmus species like eycoliptus and accasia ) schemes on their farms extensively and afforestation has taken over the most of the grassland. The objective in conservation and improvement should stress on reproductive efficiency and survivability in a given eco-system. These two schemes should be entrusted to the NGOs. The schemes might succeed with people's participation.
Karnataka has the dubious distinction of having the second largest share of the drought-prone areas of the country. Agriculture is the most significant vocation that is affected by drought. In a situation of drought the fodder availability gets altered differentially across seasons and regions. The impact of an early kharif season drought on fodder production is likely to be different than a drought spell during crop growth period and followed by a rabi season drought. Thus, pressure will be at its helm on these Kavals.


Seventy six species of birds, both resident and migratory, were recorded in study area. The plenty of food at watersheds and other foods like insects, grasses, seed, fruits, rats, rodents and nursery service by the habitat is attracting a variety of birds. Since this was a rapid study for four days, an annual bird count in different seasons will yield a significantly higher bird list.
Five species of babblers : Rufous -bellied Babbler (1219-1223), Yellow-eyed Babbler (1230-1232), Common Babbler (1253-1254), Large Grey babbler (1258), and the very rare one White-headed Babbler (1267-1268) are sighted sector -I of the farm.
Among raptors Indian Spotted Eagle (171), Brahminy Kite (135), Short-toed Snake-Eagle (195), Egyptian Vulture (186-187), Black Kite (132-134), Oriental Honey-Buzzard (129-130), White-eyed Buzzard (157), Shikra (137-140) were observed in the sector-I, sector-II and sector-III.
Among Egret, Herons and ducks Spot-billed Duck (97-99), Indian Pond-Heron (42-42a), Little Egret (44) and Cattle Egret (49) and two species of kingfisher were found in the watersheds of sector-1 and Gurusiddanakatte of Sector-2.
The most significant findings of the study is recording of White-bellied Minivet (1096) Pericrocotus erythropygius, Stone-Curlew (435-436) Burhinus oedicnemus and White-headed Babbler (1267-1268) Turdoides affinis. The importance of this habitat for these endangered birds can be gauged from the fact that this birds depends on grassland ecosystem. Once, well distributed Great Bustard Otis tarda, Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica and Indian Courser Cursorius coromandelius have gone missing due to shrinkage of habitat and hectic human activity.

The entire list of birds recorded in the study are is given in annexure -

Mammalian Fauna
Blackbuck inhabit the sector-1 and sector-11 and surrounding area and sighting are very common in south of sector-1 (Mudalakavalu). The usual heard size found wear 5no,10no,28no, and two heard with the size more than 60noz with nt male and few younger and fawns. During the study period incident like stray dogs chasing blackbuck herd and catching fawns were witnessed at sector-II. The study team also found the wild bores on run and few pugmarks that would resembles the hyena near the watersheds at sector-1. The secondary information given by the village folks and staffs of LRIC (A),konehalli who use this land for grazing their animals have spotted hyenas, wild bores, jackals and wolfs at certain period or some seasons.
The Jacle was found chasing two hares at the sector-1. During the night watch jungle cat, two species of and common India hare were found abundantly in sector-11, and sector-111.

Common Threats
Since Blackbuck usually move around in sector -1, Construction of Piggery shed at sector-1 may cause danger to Blackbuck life in future due to high probability of infection by pigs of the research station.
The practice like massive Silviculture - “conversion to uniform” systems in sector -I and sector - II is shrinking vital space of the blackbuck, native grass and plants species further.
Illicit grazing activity by surrounding villagers in the LRIC campus (mainly in sector-I and sector-II) has lead most of the semi-arid grassland to semi arid shrubsland, the chance to recover as the grassland will be minimized and native grass may go extinct in this area. More ever the probable chance of infection by domestic animals while grazing in the campus to the blackbucks is high.

Stray dogs ar LR&IC(A) campus are on rise, Incident like chasing the blackbuck herd and their fawn by these dogs were too commonly found in the sector-I ans sector-II. his dogs are also dangerous to the birds which hatch eggs on ground level (vizStone curlew,Peakcock).
Unauthorized hectic human activities like stone mining at sector-III, especially in the prime habitat removal of stones and water from watersheds at sector –I, sand mining at three important water basins (which used to be only water resource to the wildlife including blackbuck and wildbores), were found incessantly. This will put an immense pressure on wildlife and they may be pushed outside the campus which certainly would lead to their extinct due to encounter with humans and stray dogs.
Poaching and wildfire / fire by shepherds are the greatest threat to the wildlife in this grassland. Wildfire in the last summer has burnt 90% of sector-II and 30% of sector-I.

Since LR&IC(A), Konehalli / Bidirammanagudi kavalu has an attribute of semi-arid grassland ecosystem, the common strategic solution which has been evolved here to conserve, could be adopted to all the semi-arid grasslands of the Karnataka.

1. The schemes like Kisan van and Gram van under the development of sylvipasture system and development of grassland and grass reserves schemes can be implemented in better way by involving the local NGOs and people’s participation.
2. Distribution of grazing lands, forest and other wastelands to landless should be stopped.
3. There should be active cooperation and coordination among the Department of Animal Husbandry, forest, agriculture and horticulture while implementing schemes like Social forest, Sylvipasture system and development of grassland and grass reserves.
4. Development of Common pool resources like community pasture or gomal lands or waste and problem soils should be taken up with active participation of the villagers. As result, human and livestock pressure on kavals can be reduced drastically.
5. Controlled removal of thorns and shrubs from the Kaval may be granted to the farmers with licenses on payment basis.
6. Introduce the rotational grazing to maintain patches of habitat and promote the concept of fewer but better quality livestock at Kavals.
7. Educate surrounding villagers not to use pesticides and other Agro-chemicals so that Kavals are kept safe from pesticides. Launch awareness to raise the awareness of the flight of Amrit mahal & Hallikar cattle’s, Blackbuck, Indian Wolf, Great Bustard, Lesser Florican and Indian Courser .
8. Improve enforcement of hunting legislation, by developing an anti-poaching task-force, regular patrolling of kavals in order to check White-stone & Sand mining and logging.
9. Re-demarcate the boundaries of Kavals to produce different zones to support Livestock research activity, develop areas to support native cattle and rest of semi-arid grassland constituents (Vegetation, Mammals, Birds, Insects, etc) and take proper and at most care to avoid any infection or harmful chemical passing out through the site of Piggery, which would endanger the wildlife.

The area stretching from South of Konehalli to north of Gyaragahtta (LR&IC(A), Konehalli ) of the study area should be Ecologically Sensitive Area under the Environment Protection Act,1986.
Shall conserve the semi-grassland in grassland format only in order to support native Amrit mahal & Hallikar Cattles, Blackbucks, Stone-Curlew and Jungle Bush-quail. Silvicultural practices of “conversion to uniform” systems have been known to be harmful to the eco system and have a deleterious effect on local fauna and flora.
A comprehensive study for gaps in knowledge regarding presence/movement of Mammals like Blackbuck, Indian Wolf, Birds like Great Bustard Otis tarda, Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica and Indian Courser Cursorius coromandelius to be filled up.
A comprehensive study covering one whole season for the flora and minimum of two seasons for birds is required to arrive at a more comprehensive picture of the areas importance for these species. The presence of over 200 Blackbucks on and surrounding site of LRIC is a strong indicator that this grassland are more than important to this species.
A comprehensive study of the significance of native grass species and its vital role as a fodder to the amrit mahal cattle has to be made.
A comprehensive study of biomass distribution of both shrub and perennial grassland has to be made, which would help in evolving in grassland management plan at core.
Increase the resources available for Kaval’s management and training supportive structure like NGO & Villagers.