Vijay Pinjarkar,TNN 
NAGPUR: The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has constituted a five-member committee to examine whether or not Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary can be accorded the status of a tiger reserve.

The committee will examine habitat conditions vis-a-vis prey population and tiger presence, assess disturbance, if any, in and around the sanctuary, analyze data to study tiger presence and distribution, and assess corridor connectivity of the sanctuary with the Central Indian meta-population of tigers. It will submit its report within a month.

On April 21, TOI had reported that environmentalist and editor of Sanctuary Asia Bittu Sahgal had told chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) that Umred-Karhandla, since its notification in 2012, had proved to be a source population of wild tigers. Currently, one tiger, five tigresses and eight cubs inhabit the 192 sq km park. This is more than many larger tiger reserves in India.

Sahgal said that in the light of the significance of the sanctuary to tiger conservation measures, it was essential that the state government declared it a tiger reserve. Umred-Karhandla lies at the junction of critical tiger habitats such as Tadoba, Bor, Navegaon-Nagzira and Pench tiger reserves. A tiger reserve status will not only grant enhanced protection to the park but would also bring it under the ambit of 'Project Tiger' and allow a better flow of funds for effective management.

According to official sources, the committee will be headed by the Inspector General of Forests (IGF) with the regional office of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Nagpur, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) & Field Director of Pench Tiger Reserve M.S. Reddy, NTCA Asstt Inspector General (AIG) at Delhi Vaibhav C Mathur, scientist with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) Bilal Habib. AIG of NTCA at Nagpur Ravikiran Govekar is the member-convener.

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