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Simlipal despair: Tigers forced to starve

Tribal ritual of mass hunting has led to an alarmingly low prey base for the big cats in Simlipal. NTCA DIG has asked Orissa to create a special tiger protection force for the reserve

Written by Debabrata Mohanty | Bhubaneswar |
March 12, 2012 1:41:42 am

Simlipal Tiger Reserve,the fourth biggest tiger reserve in the country,may soon go the Sariska way with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) pointing out an “alarmingly low prey base” due to hunting by tribals living on the fringes here.

The reserve,spanning over 2,750 sq km area in Mayurbhanj district of Orissa,has been in news since 2009 with Maoists overrunning the park and subsequently,when it was found that 14 elephants were killed by poachers through poisoned arrows or gunshots between April and May 2010. A probe by the NTCA has found that field staff burnt and destroyed some carcasses to conceal evidence of poaching.

The deepening rot in the reserve seems to be touching new lows with Deputy Inspector General of NTCA

S P Yadav in his report to the state government confirming that Similipal has a dark future with the current level of prey base.

“The prey base appears to be alarmingly low in view of recurring problems of akhand shikar (mass hunting ritual conducted between mid-January and mid-April) by tribals and sustenance hunting of ungulates. In-situ build up of prey population at Jenabil and upper Barah Kamuda (core areas of the reserve) is strongly advised,” Yadav said in his report while advising Kanha Tiger Reserve model where the in-situ mode of prey base regeneration was adopted.

Yadav,who toured the Similipal reserve alone in the first weeks of this month,said that he did not any tiger. “I did not see too many wild boars and deers,the prey of tigers. Without the prey base,how can one sustain the tigers?” he asked.

The Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in the 2008 census had put the tiger numbers there between 15 and 27,a huge comedown from 93-101 touted by reserve officials.

In May 2007,the motion-sensitive cameras set up by the WII for tiger census inside the reserve showed several poachers armed with bows and arrows having a free run inside upper Barah Kamuda range,a part of the core area that is supposed to house the maximum number of tigers.

“For the last two years,we have been asking the state government to have a special tiger protection force for Similipal,but without any success,” said member of National Board for Wildlife Biswajit Mohanty.

NTCA sources said Rs 2.15 crore has been released to Orissa for a specialised Similipal Tiger Protection Force,but the money is yet to be put in use.

State Chief Wildlife Warden J D Sharma admitted to deficiencies in managing the reserve,but denied reports that the wild boar and deer population in Similipal was coming down.

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