Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society (HYTICOS)
April 2010: “In Eturnagaram, we were spellbound by its splendid valleys and dense forest. We had explored smaller forests till then but we were experiencing the magic of a tiger forest for the first time. But even here, we could sense the changes that were slowly gnawing away at this habitat.”
It was this first trip in April 2001 to the Eturnagaram Wildlife Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh that spurred two young researcher brothers, Imran and Asif Siddiqui, to start the Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society.
(HYTICOS). Passionate about wildlife, they were participating in the tiger and leopard census there, when the antagonism of locals, the expansive habitat destruction and disregard for forested areas in Andhra Pradesh hit home. Realising that they wanted to be part of the solution, the duo scouted around for an organisation that shared their concern for wildlife protection. Unable to find a suitable conservation NGO in Andhra Pradesh, they started HYTICOS along with a motley group of motivated and dedicated friends. At present, there are 60 volunteers and 30 members from different walks of life, most of them in their 20s.
Over the last seven years, HYTICOS has focused on tiger- and leopard- populated areas. Says Asif, “Our aim is to work towards conservation of Protected Areas, potential habitats and ensure the survival of the tiger and the leopard in the state. Protecting the habitats of these flagship species will ensure the protection of the biodiversity of Andhra Pradesh.” The group specially focuses on the protection of the Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary in the Adilabad district.
HYTICOS members do not accept donations, and are not reimbursed for their time, effort or funds spent on trips into the field. Their strategy is simple – target an area and visit it repeatedly to record its wildlife and understand its conservation dynamics and roadblocks. HYTICOS members document their findings, and bring them to the notice of the concerned authorities. They also form a pressure group to craft solutions. The group then operates closely with local communities to help reduce friction with the forest department.
HYTICOS regularly trains forest department staff in the Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary and trainees at the Andhra Pradesh Forest Academy to enable them to conduct tiger and leopard censuses. It places special emphasis on field tracking and interaction with local communities. It also provides logistical support to researchers and regularly participates in extensive surveys to monitor tiger behaviour and movement. As part of Sanctuary’s Kids for Tigers campaign, HYTICOS networks with NGOs in other parts of the country to learn the best conservation practices and to help spread awareness about wildlife issues among urban children.
In the Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary, HYTICOS members make constant checks for intrusions from the migratory sheep grazers – the Meendiwalas from the Rajasthan-Gujarat border. According to Imran Siddiqui, “In October 2003, we were campaigning to drive the illegal sheep grazers out of the sanctuary. We walked to all the possible villages to spread the message and started a signature campaign addressed to the DFO. We visited 14 villages and secured the involvement of the local people. It took us one year to persuade them to move away but we achieved this with the help of the DFO Vinod Kumar.”
HYTICOS has also undertaken GIS-based habitat analysis and research and is working with Wildlife First to conduct anti-poaching awareness camps. It is currently involved in collecting data for the smooth relocation of villages outside the Protected Area. HYTICOS is hoping to expand its conservation efforts to other sanctuaries in Andhra Pradesh. It is also working jointly with the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) on a project to carry out DNA analysis and identification of tigers at Kawal.
Within seven years, this NGO has achieved important goals. It has conducted valuable research into the numbers and behaviour of tigers and other wildlife in the Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary and has successfully campaigned for the closure of the road that bisects the sanctuary from nine p.m. to six a.m. thereby reducing roadkills. It has helped to keep the Meendiwala herders out of the sanctuary; strongly protested forest felling at all levels; advocated and worked with locals to ensure that they receive cattle kill compensation on time and compiled an accurate bird list for the sanctuary. HYTICOS hopes to continue to work with the forest department to overcome conservation hurdles.
In March 2003, members of HYTICOS, with the help of the Nallamalai Foundation, spent two weeks in search of viable wildlife corridors along the northern boundaries of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. They travelled 1,800 km. from Yavatmal to Adilabad, touching the Chandrapur border and completed their search at the Gadhchiroli border. They learnt how forests were being encroached and were also pleasantly surprised to discover some fantastic habitats in the Reserved Forests.
In the midst of stone pelting by villagers, Naxal interrogation, near-attacks by police who had mistaken them for Naxals, attacks from sloth bears, gaur, and putting out forest fires, this group of young people has organised itself into a strong protection force for Andhra Pradesh’s wildlife habitats.
To learn more about their work, contact:
Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society,
22-8-512/2, Opposite Nada Medical Stores,
Purani Haveli, Hyderabad, 500002.
Andhra Pradesh, India.