Special Correspondent

Boycott of duty by forest officers in Sunabeda Sanctuary

The counting will be carried out from May 12 to 17 by pugmark tracking

Wildlife lovers insist that the State should put the record

BHUBANESWAR: The tiger census process started in the State on Saturday even as the forest staff at the Sunabeda wildlife sanctuary in Nuapada district stayed away from the exercise due to fear of the Maoists.

A forester had been killed by armed Maoists in Sunabeda sanctuary recently.

The Maoists had also struck in Similipal wildlife sanctuary last year, but sources said that the forest staff had come forward to take part in the census work by going in groups.

As per the plan, the first three days would be an exercise to count the herbivores and other wild animals, excluding the big cats in different wildlife habitats across the State.

The counting of the tigers would be carried out from May 12 to 17 by pugmark tracking and other methods. Subsequently, the Similipal authorities were likely to request the Wildlife Institute of India for counting the tigers by using the camera trapping method.

The current census carried importance as the Central government has concluded that Similipal had only 25 tigers out of the State total of 45. However, the State forest department is ready to accept this.

In view of the serious criticism that the number of tigers in Similipal had declined sharply in the recent years, the State government had brought the number from 95 to 70 during the last census.

Wildlife lovers and conservationists are insisting that the State government should put the record straight and reveal the truth about the number of tigers living in the State's forests.