GOVT. TO RELEASE SECRET FUNDS, LAUNCH SPECIAL TIGER PROTECTION FORCE - 30th April 2012

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN

NAGPUR: Stung by the poaching of a tiger in a jaw trap in Palasgaon range in the buffer zone of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), the state government has announced a host of measures, including release of secret funds to develop intelligence network and appointment of forest guards under Special Tiger Protection Force(STPF).

"The incident is extremely tragic as well as an eye-opener after the electrocution of two tigers in the recent past in Tadoba landscape," said Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary (forests). He said a red alert has been sounded around Tadoba, Melghat, Bor, Nagzira and Navegaon. After discussions with National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and senior forest officials, preventive steps to trace more traps in the periphery of these PAs have been announced.

Directions have been issued to the staff to keep track of all water holes, particularly on the periphery of protected areas for traps on a daily basis. "Nagzira and Bor also need to be on high alert, with daily scanning of every waterhole and keeping track of tigers outside the parks," Pardeshi said.

As per the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), the latest poaching may be the handiwork of the gang involved in poaching near Tadoba in 2010. The pictures of those two culprits are already available with the forest department and Nitin Desai, Central India director of WPSI.

Pardeshi has also directed recruitment of 90 forest guards under Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) approved by the government for TATR. These guards will be put under the field director and posted in buffer zone for patrolling.

The money for the secret fund will be released this week and announcement of awards for information leading to arrest or capture of contraband articles will be made on radio, bus stations, railway stations and village chavdies.

Pardeshi also spoke to inspector general of police (IGP), Nagpur, and superintendent of police, Chandrapur. They are on high alert to capture and trace the suspects.

Wildlife experts said that the system of monitoring waterholes twice daily has not been followed and needs to be strictly monitored and documented. Such poaching incidents are possible only during summer in landscapes of tiger reserves. However, the field staff only come to know about it after several days. Therefore, divisional forest officials (DFOs) have been told to alert field staff on wireless immediately. In the next two days, officials have been told to meet staff and enforce various protocols of protection camps, including group patrol, daily monitoring of water holes, reaching out to local villagers for getting information of outsiders, enhanced frisking of strangers as well as villagers found in unusual locations, maintenance of diary by guards etc.
At the same time, officials have been told not to press the panic button. It is being described as an exercise to boost confidence and vigilance level of the field staff, they were told. They have been further asked to ensure that pro forma of monitoring waterholes is regularly submitted by guards.

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