Four wild animals — two leopards and two sloth bears — were found electrocuted within the premises of an Ordnance Factory in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur on Saturday, raising questions over the status of security at the sensitive installation. Blaming poachers over the deaths, Chandrapur Honorary Wildlife Warden Bandu Dhotre said the incident shows how wildlife is vulnerable in such high-security zone.
Chief Conservator of Forest, Chandrapur, Rama Rao said in a text message: “Two full-grown leopards, a male and a female, and two full-grown sloth bears, also a pair, were found electrocuted in the defence colony of Ordnance Factory, Chandrapur. A GI (galvanised iron) wire was laid for 254 metres near an 11-KV distribution line.”
The Chandrapur Ordnance Factory covers a vast forest area which is home to a variety of wildlife, including leopards. There have been several occasions when even tigers were spotted in the factory area, owing to its proximity to the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR).
Chandrapur Honorary Wildlife Warden Bandu Dhotre said, “The spot is just about 50 metres in the forest adjoining the defence colony. Poachers had apparently laid the wire to catch herbivores like cheetah and sambhar but ended up killing leopards and sloth bears. The incident not only shows how the wildlife here is unsafe despite being a high-security zone but also, more importantly, it shows how porous the security is on a highly sensitive Defence area like this.”
NGO Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) central India Director Nitin Desai said: “Three is a long two-decade history of poaching on this OF’s premises. Since this area is insulated for outsiders three is little that outsiders can do to curb it. There is often nexus between poachers from nearby villages with some low-rung staffers of the factory, who get bush meat from the poachers.”
Ordnance factory General Manager Rajneesh Lodwal, however, dismissed the possibility of a security breach. “Our factory is fully secured. True that people can nearby villages do sometime intrude into the residential area since it’s open at some points. We are constructing a compound wall and it will be completed soon,” he said. “We have a lot of animals on our premises and we regularly coordinate with the Forest Department for their protection. The Forest Department is preparing an action plan on it, which should be ready soon.”
Lodwal added that strict action will be taken if factory staff members were found involved in the deaths.
Divisional Forest Officer Ashok Sonkusare said, “The OF is spread over 3,200 hectares with the forest of nearly 2,500 hectares. We regularly have meetings with them (OF) officials. We have told them to clear the bushes near the residential colony and also install lights for clear visibility. They are yet to start it.”
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