Forest Department cannot afford to relax anti-poaching measures

The recent arrests of small-time poachers on the periphery of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks have highlighted the underlying threat to wildlife despite intense patrolling by the Forest Department.

While two persons, suspected to have poached a monitor lizard at BRT sanctuary in Chamarajanagar district, were nabbed by range officers on Monday, three persons accused of hunting a sambar at Nagarahole in Mysore district were taken into custody on Friday.

According to sources in the Forest Department, poaching of small animals such as spotted deer and wild boar tends to be high during the festival season, but it mostly takes place beyond the national parks’ boundaries. However, a few individuals manage to sneak into national parks or wildlife sanctuaries despite the measures taken by the authorities.

Bandipur and Nagarahole are contiguous to BRT, Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and M.M. Hills. The entire area has a large number of tigers, ranging from 180 to 200, apart from elephants, leopards, dholes, spotted deer, barking deer and sambar.

More camps set up

Mr. Kantharaj, Conservator of Forests and Director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, told The Hindu that a slew of measures were in place to curb poaching He said the number of anti-poaching camps in Bandipur had been increased from 43 to 46 this year.

“In addition to strengthening the anti-poaching camps (each one is manned by five staffers), we have also roped in volunteers and members of NGOs to comb the national park area, spread over 874 sq km. They look for snares and traps laid by poachers and small-time hunters and remove them,” said Mr. Kantharaj. The combing exercise was taken up throughout the year, he said.

Combing exercise

He said that after the combing exercise was introduced, the forests were practically free of snares and traps and this had gone a long way in curbing poaching in Bandipur. Similarly, patrolling was strong in Nagarahole and had been supplemented by the presence of the Special Tiger Protection Force. However, the threat still existed and the authorities could not afford to let their guard down, he said. “Occasionally, a snare is discovered and removed during every combing exercise. However, these are found only on the [forest] fringes and not in the core. Given the intense patrolling, gaining unauthorised entry into the national park is virtually ruled out,” Mr. Kantharaj added.

According to officials, attempts to poach or hunt tend to increase during the monsoon and post-monsoon months when the forest is slushy and full of leeches. There is also the perception that forest guards or anti-poaching staff do not take up foot patrolling during this time. However, not only are the staff alert, but their numbers have been strengthened to thwart any attempts to poach wildlife, they add.

‘It’s a good sign’

Sanjay Gubbi, a former member of the State Board for Wildlife and a wildlife biologist, pointed out that the increase in wildlife crime detection augured well for conservation as it underlined the presence of a serious monitoring system. “When detection rates are high, it means patrolling is also intense. In Kollegal division alone, 80 cases have been registered. Similarly, the detection rate is good at Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. The key to curbing poaching is vigorous patrolling and maintaining vigil,” he said.

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