Statesman News Service
BHUBANESWAR, April 21: Immediate notification of the Satkosia-Baisipalli forest area as Tiger Reserve, submission of proposal by the government for the Sunabeda sanctuary to be covered under Project Tiger and marking of tiger habitats to ensure that such areas are isolated from forest diversion proposals were some of the points made by wildlife experts at a recently held symposium here.
The symposium organised by Wild Orissa, a society for conservation of nature and wildlife also urged upon the state government to notify the forests of ‘Narayanpatna’, Gupteswar, ‘Gandhamardhan’, ‘Kapilash’, ‘Malayagiri’ and ‘Chandrapur’ as sanctuaries.
Taking note of the fact that the ‘State Wildlife Board’ has been defunct since long, the participants wanted the government to expeditiously constitute the Board and convene a meeting to discuss on these issues.
Justifying the demand for Sunabeda sanctuary to be a second project tiger zone, the Wild Orissa activists noted that it harbours the second highest number of tigers after Simlipal.
This patch of forests is contiguous with the Udanti-Sitanadi sanctuaries in Chhatisgarh through the Khariar forests, and with Udanti-Sitanadi having been cleared for inclusion under the Project Tiger scheme by the steering committee, there is an urgent need for placing the Sunabeda forests under the Project Tiger scheme, they noted.
These contiguous patch are potential rich habitats for Hard Footed Barasingha and Wild Buffalo.
With regards to Similipal Tiger Reserve, the symposium suggested that there was urgent need for improved co-ordination between various government agencies. Relocation of remaining villages in the core area should be completed within a time frame along with livelihood programmes for relocated families to minimise on limiting factors of Tiger Reserve.
Deliberating on the perennial staff shortage problem, the symposium suggested strengthening of field staff and introduction of a system of rewards and recognition in the line of ‘President’s Medal’, ‘Governor’s Medal’ and ‘Forest Medal’ (like Police Medal) for those posted in remote tiger reserve areas. There are a large number of vacancies among the field staff in the forest department and the average age of staff at present is quite high, which impedes their efficiency in difficult and inhospitable terrain, observed participants.
All the field officers in tiger habitats should be given immunity of using firearms for wildlife protection. A dedicated well trained ‘Forest Protection Force’ need to be created immediately. Magisterial powers to Wildlife Wardens and ACF’s should also be given for the protected areas. All arms license within 10 Kms of protected areas should be cancelled, suggested the panel. The Wild Orissa also pleaded for establishment of a forensic laboratory’ in Orissa for wildlife crimes.
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