Following the arrest of a gang of poachers from North India in the Nilgiris forest division a few months ago, the T.N. Forest Department has initiated a number of steps to bridge the lapses in surveillance in densely-forested regions of the district.
The gang was arrested in February of this year, and charged with poaching a tiger and a leopard near Avalanche in the Nilgiris forest division.
Speaking to The Hindu, S. Gowtham, District Forest Officer (Nilgiris division), said that prior to the incident, there had been no established system of anti-poaching operations in the region where the poachers operated, which is one of several “grey areas” in six ranges surrounding the Mukurthi National Park (MNP). “In order to address these gaps in surveillance, additional protection watchers have been recruited to only take part in anti-poaching operations in Kundah, Korakundah, Udhagai South, Parsons Valley, Pykara and Naduvattam,” said Mr. Gowtham.
These regions were “grey areas” as they contained dense forests with poor coverage for the Forest Department’s surveillance to check poaching, and were also located along interstate boundaries which could allow for the entry of poachers from surrounding regions.
In addition to the sanctioned anti-poaching watchers (APWs), 15 additional APWs have also been posted in different parts of the division, Mr. Gowtham said. The additional protection watchers will conduct regular patrols in these areas and will also stay in anti-poaching watcher camps regularly, to monitor illegal entries into the forests.
As the gang of poachers were from other States had pretended to be blanket sellers to gain intelligence about the location of tigers, the Forest Department has also reached out to the managers of private estates in the region to keep tabs on migrant workers they employ.
To ensure that word spreads that hunting wild game will not be tolerated, the Forest Department has also begun clamping down on people hunting small game such as jungle fowl and wild boar, with cases being registered in Coonoor and Kotagiri. “We are trying to emphasize that all poaching will be dealt with firmly, so that people who begin poaching small game do not have the sense of impunity to begin hunting larger animals,” said Mr. Gowtham.