October 28, 2021 8:59:47 pm
Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in Khanapur Taluk of Belagavi District, which is Karnataka Forest Minister Umesh Katti’s home district, has not had a full time Range Forest Officer (RFO) for the last three months. Presently, the charge of Bhimgad Wildlife Range has been given to the RFO of adjoining Kanakumbi Territorial Range. Kanakumbi is situated at a distance of 55 km from Hemmadaga which is the headquarters of Bhimgad Wildlife Range.
Conservationists in the region say since the tiger census is nearing an end, it is imperative to have a full time RFO. Moreover, Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary has eight anti-poaching camps which need constant vigil.
“Kanakumbi Territorial Range itself is spread over 16,000 hectare and shares an interstate border with Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra and hence, handling another range is definitely a challenging task for a single RFO. There are eight Anti-Poaching Camps in the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary and need a constant vigil. Also, the sanctuary has an interstate border. Apart from routine protection duty, the RFO has to look after incidents of human-wildlife conflict such as crop damage by wild animals, cattle killed by wild animals etc,” a conservationist on the condition of anonymity said.
Spread across 19,000 hectares, Bhimgad Wildlife sanctuary houses major flora and fauna. The animals found include tiger, leopard, dhole (wild dog), sloth bear, gaur, sambar, chital, muntjac, mouse deer, great Indian hornbill, king cobra and most importantly the critically endangered Wroughton’s free tailed bat. It is connected with Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa and Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka.
As per the All India Tiger Estimation carried out in the year 2018, there are five unique tigers in Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary.
The conservationist said, “Since the general transfers, carried out in May and June, are over now, even the Forest Minister does not have the authority to post RFOs without the approval of the Chief Minister. Hence, it is high time that the Chief Minister takes immediate action to post a full-time RFO at Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary which is a major tiger habitat in North Karnataka.”
Meanwhile, Additional Chief Secretary (Forest, Ecology and Environment) to the state government Jawaid Akhtar did not respond to calls till the time of filing this report.
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