In March last year, Maoists damaged three forest range offices, beat up tourists and burnt down forest departments , which boast of considerable animal presence

The Similipal Tiger Reserve in Orissa faces increased danger of poaching after it closed last year following Maoist violence and assault on forest guards.

“After the Maoist attack in Similipal in March last year, the National Park and Tiger Reserve is yet to reopen due to lack of adequate security forces. Central forces promised are yet to arrive,” field director of STR Harishankar Upadhyay said.

The threat of poaching has increased in the reserve which houses 25 tigers as per the last census, Mr. Upadhyay said, adding that of the 65 anti-poaching camps only 40 are now functioning.

Forest guards, who fled after the Maoist violence are gradually returning and confidence building measures have been taken up as they are still scared, he said. “But, if Maoist violence continues in Similipal, no forest staff will remain there.

“There have been instances of poaching of deer, but not of tigers.”

In March last year, Maoists damaged three forest range offices, beat up tourists and forest staff and burnt down forest department establishments at Chahala, Dhudruchampa and Upper Barahkamuda, which boast of considerable animal presence and are located in the core area.

The STR field director said at present two police camps are located in the Upper Barakumda range and Gudgudia range, but deployment of adequate forces and extensive combing operations are required.

Asked whether Maoists posed a threat to tigers and other animals, he said, “Since the forest personnel are scared, the protection of animals is affected.”

Asked whether he has taken up the matter with the Orissa government, he said it is aware of it.

On the re-opening of the tiger reserve for tourists, he said the decision would be taken after deployment of central forces.

Mr. Upadhayay said a positive development was that one of the four villages inside the core area of the reserve has been shifted last week from Jenabil to Amdiah near Udla in Mayurbhanj district.

Altogether 61 families have been relocated from Jenabil. Each family has been given a Rs 10 lakh package as per the rules of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

Mr. Upadhyay said that three villages — Kabatghai, Jamunagarh and Bakua — are still located inside the core area and steps are being taken to relocate them also.

Altogether 35 families are living in Kabatghai, 26 in Jamunagarh and 61 in Bakua, he said.

Asked whether any timeframe has been fixed for their relocation, he said it took 20 years to shift the Jenabil village.

“Now our first priority is to settle the villagers from Jenabil properly. Once they are settled properly, others from the remaining villages inside the core area will be encouraged to shift out of the park,” he said.