In line with the camera trapping facilities at the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Thekkady, the second largest reserve of sandalwood in the district, cameras will be installed at selected areas in the sandalwood forest in Maryur.
This was one of the proposals that came at the sandal monitor review meeting at Maryur recently as part of various measures to be taken to prevent sandalwood smuggling and effective monitoring of the reserve.
A senior official of the Maryur forest department on Monday said that though sandalwood smuggling has considerably declined with the timely nabbing of the smugglers and their aides, it was still a menace especially during the heavy monsoon period and festival seasons like Deepavali and Pongal. The smugglers choose the rainy season as it is less noticeable while cutting the sandalwood trees including those grown on private land. Smugglers from the border areas also enter the reserve and smuggle sandalwood during the festival season in view of its high demand, he said.
Though a special inquiry team is functioning under a range officer to nab the smugglers and the monitoring of the forest to prevent theft, the shortage of staff in comparison to the large areas under the reserve and private lands with sandalwood trees, makes effective monitoring during the night difficult. Moreover, the forest watchers in each area inform the officials about suspicious movement of people in the reserve and theft attempts, if any, are made. By installing modern devises, it will be quite easy and the movement of smuggled sandalwood to safer areas will be traced. Since the smugglers are familiar with the area, they immediately move the sandalwood to secret places and often escape before being caught.
The forest department will also provide more vehicles in addition to more trained staff in the reserve. Though in many cases the smugglers are being traced, it will be difficult to recover the smuggled sandalwood as the culprits had already moved out the item from the area.
The meeting also mooted to appoint a dog squad in the department with a trainer. It was recommended at the meeting that the recovery of the smuggled item is effectively possible with more staff and modernising the monitoring system.