Aparna Nair, TNN

Three herds of sambhar deer have been seen where the village of Vairat once stood in the Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR). It was a happy sight. This is another success story of relocation of villages inside protected areas of forest where the wildlife is gaining back territory earlier occupied by man.

Here, in this forest, things seem to be going back to normal with wildlife making its home at the sites where earlier stood villages of Vairat and Bori. A positive change was expected after the relocation of villages inside MTR and now, with the monsoon in full flow, this change is visible.

There is lush green grass where the village stood, around twelve species of grass, including indigenous ones. Three herds of sambhars were seen, one of five, another of two and the third of around seven. Jackals were also seen in the meadow.

The population of sambhars in Gugamal forest was dwindling for many years due to pressure from Vairat which had a huge population of domestic livestock. The staff at the protection camp also said that tigers, leopards and sloth bears were frequenting the place now that the village had moved out.

MTR's KP Singh said that he had spotted a heard of around 70 gaurs in the meadow created after the relocation of Bori village. "I think this is the largest size of herd ever recorded in Melghat," he added.

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