Lantana Shrub Affecting Premier Tiger Habitats of India
2010-02-03 12:39:57 – Lantana is a type of perennial flowering plant mainly found in tropical regions of Africa and America. Commonly referred to as shrub verbenas or lantanas, these plants are 1.6 – 6.6 ft tall and can be found in a mix of colors like red, yellow, orange, white and blue. As they mature, these flowers change their color resulting in two or three- colored blossoming.
Lantana seeds are spread due to their characteristic leaves and birds feeding on its fruits. However, some species of this shrub are considered to be highly toxic weeds. Lantana leaves, poisonous for most animals is found to be responsible for depletion of natural ecosystem. In addition to this, since Lantana shrubs survive in carbon dioxide (CO2) rich atmosphere, its spread eventually results in increase of CO2 level in the atmosphere.
Imported as an ornamental shrub from South America, Lantana shrub presently covers over 25% of prime forest region, spanning all across India. There is no clear answer with the forest officials as to how Lantana spread so fast in the last decade. Famous tiger habitats like Corbet National Park ( www.corbett-national-park.com/), Nagarahole National Park and Bandipur national parks are amongst the worst that have been hit by the spread of these shrubs. However, strangely though, Lantana shrub growth has not restricted the increase in tiger population in these forest reservoirs.
In the past, traveling around the Bandipur National Park http://www.indiawildliferesorts.com/national-parks/bandipur-national-park.html , one could easily get mesmerized by the Chitals gracefully roaming in the park. However, over the years, Lantana shrub has increasingly spread all across the forest regions due to which animal sightings have become a rare occasion here. Most carnivores and other animals hide under the thick shrubbery of Lantana plants. In addition to this, the wild floras of these natural reservoirs are now mostly covered with Lantana shrubs leaving very little space for the growth of any other tree.
Officials responsible for conservation of forests in India insist that they need more funds for effective management of Lantana spread. They are of the opinion that these shrubs should be removed during monsoon before the seeds mature. At the same time, some experts emphasize that these shrubs should be cut from two centimeters below the ground level so that it does not grow back again. A team of scientists have tried this method in Corbett National Park recently and have claimed success.
However, there are many who oppose the removal of Lantana shrubs arguing that it acts as ambush for tigers and other animals. They point out that as it is the forests face too much of human interference, therefore they should be left alone, and the fate of the Lantana shrubs will be eventually decided over time by natural dominance of other species of plants.