CHANDRAPUR: The forest department facing heat in tiger poaching in buffer area of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) has decided to join forces with police department for investigations into the case.

Principal secretary (forests) Pravin Pardeshi, on Monday, had detailed discussion with Chandrapur SP Suvez Haque at Rambagh guesthouse over the issue. "We will take up joint investigations with police department. We will soon decide which officers will be included in the probe," said Pardeshi. He said that investigators have got some leads into the Borda tiger poaching case.

Pardeshi said that as an express measure to bolster security in TATR and its buffer area, the forest department had handed over the entire 1,100km of buffer zone to TATR authorities. The buffer area earlier encompassed major portion of Chandrapur forest division along with small patches of Bramhapuri division and FDCM.

Two new posts of DCF have been allotted for the tiger reserve along with additional staff of 90 forest guards. "Out of 90 forest guards, 70 have been already recruited. They will join their duties in TATR and buffer areas in the next fortnight. It will help in enhancing protection in core and buffer areas of tiger reserve," Pardeshi said.

TATR has three ranges and 36 beats. Each guard had to cover the area of around 18km inside the tiger reserve. Similarly, the buffer area has an expanse of around 1100 sq km and every beat guard has 8 sq km area to cover. While new recruitment is likely to lead to revised formation of forest beats inside TATR, it will also ease some pressure on the existing staff.

Pardeshi claimed that the department has enhanced monitoring at waterholes and visit of beat guard to every waterhole is being cross-checked through the digital image. "Every guard has to present a digital photograph of his every visit to the waterhole, along with GPS readings. This has been made compulsory to ensure 100% monitoring of the waterholes," he said.

The forest department has also opened the avenues for involvement of NGOs in monitoring and patrolling in the wake of present threat to the tigers. Pardeshi said that they had decided to actively involve NGO activists in monitoring exercise. NGOs have also been appealed to provide any intelligence they have about the poachers, he claimed.

Pardeshi claimed that forest authorities are discussing measures with officers of MSEDCL to curb poaching through electrification in fringe areas. "One of the measures we have suggested is to shut down electricity during nights in the villages where there is high frequency of tripping and cases of poaching through electrocution have been registered," he said.

Apart from this, department has released secret funds to raise intelligence in forest areas. A prize has been declared for those providing information about the poachers, he said. Earlier, Pardeshi held a meeting with senior forest officials and NGOs to review the security of tigers in district.

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