It will be ready by December, says Forest Department official
With instances of poaching of endangered species such as monitor lizards and several exotic birds on the rise, the Forest Department is now framing a Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) for protection and conservation of the Ousteri Lake which was declared a bird sanctuary last year.
The project of preparing the CMP has been given to Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Coimbatore. Forest Department officials told The Hindu that the plan would be ready by December.
It would draw strategies to curb unauthorised fishing in the lake, improve habitat for visiting birds and provide alternative livelihood for tribes in the area to wean them from poaching activities.
The lake and the adjoining areas, especially Villianur, had been witnessing heavy poaching over the last few years.
According to Deputy Conservator of Forests A. Anil Kumar, most of such poaching was done by Narikorava tribes. Owing to shortage of manpower, the department could not conduct raids to curb the poaching, he said.
The poaching of monitor lizards, a species accorded protection under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and listed under the Red Data Book to Appendix I of the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES), increases during Deepavali as the meat is seen as a delicacy and used for special feasts.
The Narikoravas said that usually they hiked the price of the meat by 50 per cent during the festival owing to demand.
Mr. Anil said that another important reason for poaching was the demand from local bars for the meat.
A number of bar owners placed orders for the lizard with the tribes and paid them on a monthly basis.
The tribes said that apart from bar owners in Puducherry, those from Cuddalore and Villupuram also placed orders.
When contacted, Superintendent of Police (South) Nandagopal said that the issue had not been brought to their notice though the Forest Department maintained that raids were conducted in coordination with the police.
A maximum of three years of imprisonment with a fine of Rs.25,000 was the punishment under the Wildlife Protection Act for poachers.
Apart from monitor lizards, Mr. Anil said that several endangered birds were also sold by these tribes who used unlicensed muskets to hunt.
Last December, the department seized 12 such weapons for which the tribes were unable to produce any documents.
He said that the department was also coming out with brochures for a campaign to sensitise the public to the need for not buying such animals. This campaign would begin next week.