Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN NAGPUR: Pench tiger reserve is effectively exploiting the link between local communities and wildlife conservation by roping in locals living on the fringes of the park to patrol the borders.

"Though forest staff patrol the reserve, areas in the buffer too need effective patrolling. Locals can play an important role in wildlife and forest protection here. It's been a month since the initiative has been launched," said MS Reddy, field director and chief conservator of forests (CCF), Pench.

Reddy said divisional forest officer (DFO) Ajay Pillariseth, all five RFOs of Pench, conservation officer of Satpuda Foundation at Pench Anoop Awasthi, along with village eco-development committee (VEDC) members of four villages were instrumental in the planning process. The idea of community patrolling was initiated by Satpuda Foundation. During his recent visit, state principal secretary (forests) Praveen Pardeshi was highly impressed by the way the foundation got community support in wildlife protection. "Money available to each deputy conservator of forests (DyCF) can be used for community patrolling and intelligence gathering," said Pardeshi.

Anoop Awasthi added, "Patrolling around park boundary and water holes is producing encouraging results. Field staff, VEDC members from Kolitmara, Ghatpendri, Narhar and Sillari villages, and volunteers from Satpuda Foundation are all engaged in the task."

Reddy advised that "We will involve other VEDCs too. We also plan to reward good VEDCs and volunteers with a token amount. A fund of Rs 50,000 has been kept for this purpose from Pench Tiger Foundation". On January 17, a tiger was found poached in Harnakund nullah in the buffer of Pench in Deolapar range. In the absence of regular patrolling, the putrefied carcass lay at the spot for nearly a month.

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