Bandipur: The Bandipur National Park in Karnataka's Chamarajnagar district - like much of the state - is dealing with drought. Bandipur is tiger territory, home to an estimated 140 tigers. It is a vitally important area for tiger conservation and is part of an area of forest that houses the largest number of wild tigers in the world. They flourish with a strong prey base of herbivores, but even grass for these animals is hard to come by.
The dry-as-dust forest is prone to fires and Bandipur did struggle through a devastating fire earlier this year.
"The last three years we are receiving very low rainfall here. This year we had actually 61 per cent deficit. Usually Bandipur receives 450 mm of rain every year. But this year we could receive only 212 mm. That has created lot of problem. 75 per cent of this tiger reserve has been infested with lantana, a weed actually. That weed is removing surface water and with no rainfall, we had a tough time this year," T Heeralal, Director of the Bandipur National Park, told NDTV.
"We have around 373 small water holes inside the tiger reserve. Out of these 320 plus have gone dry. Because of low rainfall, we could not store much water and animals started coming out from the park and we had a lot of man-animal conflict also," he added.
The forest department is providing some help to thirsty animals - natural and man-made water holes have been desilted - and 12 have been connected to borewells powered by solar energy. NDTV travelled to the Dasanakatte waterhole which has been made wider and deeper. When the sun shines, the borewell, which goes down 300 feet, pumps water into the waterhole. There was elephant dung near the water - proving that the place was, quite literally, a popular watering hole.
There are around 200 villages on the periphery of the Bandipur tiger reserve - fodder and water for livestock is a challenge. One elderly shepherd, Veerabhadrappa, was sheltering from the heat under an umbrella as he allowed his flock to graze. "It is very difficult, there is no water for people or animals. Many animals died this year," he said.
As we left Bandipur, it began to rain. The hope - that summer showers will provide some relief to this tinder box of tiger territory. And that this monsoon is a good one.