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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Notorious tiger poacher nabbed in Sawai Madhopur

TNN | Feb 29, 2012, 01.50AM IST JAIPUR: In a major breakthrough against poaching of tigers, the flying squad of the forest department along with Tiger Watch on Monday nabbed a wanted poacher from Sawai Madhopur. He was involved in poaching of two tigers in Ranthambore and Sariska. Acting on a tip-off, a team of forest officials raided an area near Sawai Man Singh sanctuary and arrested Saalma alias Badri alias Jagdish on Monday evening. "We were on the look out for him for a long time. He is wanted in two cases of poaching of tigers and runs a gang of poachers," Dharmendra Khandal of Tiger Watch said. The forest officials confirming arrest of the poacher added that since 2005 he was residing in and around Dumaria village in Bharatpur district of the state and Ranthambore National Park and Sariska Tiger Reserve were on his target. "Though he was keeping a low profile for the last couple of years, he is an accused in two poaching cases in 1992 and 2005," a forest official said. Tiger Watch claimed they had specific information on the whereabouts of Saalma which they shared with the forest department officials. "After efforts to locate him since morning, he was finally nabbed in the evening by our team," Sunder Sharma, assistant conservator, forest, said.

Poacher trio named, hunt on

OUR CORRESPONDENT The arrested villager with the leopard skin on Sunday Ranchi, Feb. 28: Forest officials are on the trail of three accomplices who have been named by a villager held on Saturday with the skin of a leopard they had poached in the Palamau Tiger Reserve. Amarka Singh, who was arrested while trying to strike a deal with smugglers at Satbarwa on the Jharkhand-Bihar border, has confessed that he was aided by his nephews Krishna and Chatur Singh and Rajeshwar Singh, also a relative. “During interrogation, Amarka revealed that brothers Krishna and Chatur killed the leopard. Rajeshwar was in charge of identifying buyers while Amarka was the transporter,” said divisional forest officer (core) Premjit Anand. The forest department is preparing a case against Amarka who has been sent to Latehar jail. “We will leave no stone unturned to prepare a strong case against him,” he said. Amarka told officials they (the four) were involved in poaching animals, including deer and cheetal, in the reserve for years. “They recently killed a deer and were looking for buyers. However, Amarka told us he wasn’t aware of where the skin was. We are trying to trace it,” said the DFO. The seized leopard skin was estimated to fetch more than Rs 5 lakh in the international market. The poachers trapped the animal before firing at it. “When you trap an aggressive wild animal like the leopard, there are chances of severe injuries. The skin that we recovered had the portion of a leg missing. It bore holes, which suggested that bullets had pierced the leopard’s body,” Anand said. The nails of the leopard were also missing. Forest officials suspect the nails were also sold off along with some other body parts. “Unlike the skin, nails aren’t priced high and buyers are easy to get. Nails are used in making accessories such as lockets and bracelets. These find takers, as many believe that evil spirits are kept at bay if one wears lockets made of tiger and leopard body parts,” the DFO explained. All four involved in the poaching are from Phulwari village in Palamau. Officials are keeping a close watch on the village to trace the absconding trio. As per norms, the leopard skin along with photographic evidence and the statement of Amarka have been sent to court. Once the court puts its stamp, the forest department will reclaim the skin from judicial custody and arrange for its disposal. “According to government of India rules, wildlife trophies can no longer be kept in museums. They have to be burnt or destroyed to prevent their misuse or smuggling,” Anand clarified.

Tiger conservation: Maharashtra villagers get first instalment of rehab package

PTI CHANDRAPUR (MAHARASHTRA), FEB. 29: Over 104 families from village Jamni, located inside the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in the district, received the first instalment of Rs 1 lakh, out of the total of Rs 10 lakh declared as part of their rehabilitation from the Government, a release from the District Information Office said. In order to clear the land for the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), 222 families in the village inside the TATR, have been given two options by the Government’s NTCA Rehabilitation Package. Under the first option, each family will be given Rs 10 lakh, so that people can shift and settle at any place of their choice without any further Government aid. A104 families have opted for this total cash compensation. Under the second alternative, each family would be rehabilitated by the Government, that will also provide them land in a nearby village, construct a house for them, besides giving them cash of Rs 50,000. A 114 families have opted for this, the release said. They will be relocated to Ambdi village, which is located around 30 km from their village, on the Khadsangi-Samudrapur Road in Chimur tehsil of the district. The Minister for Environment and Cultural Affairs, Mr Sanjay Deotale, distributed the cheques to the beneficiaries. Forest officials, including the Forest Secretary (Maharashtra State), Mr Praveen Pardeshi, were present on the occasion. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Deotale called upon the villagers to take active part in the rehabilitation process and apprise the administration of any shortcomings so that corrective measures are incorporated during execution of the work. Mr Pardeshi said none of the eligible families from the village would be denied the compensation package. Hence, the list of beneficiaries would be verified by the Gram Sabha itself. Around four years back, the entire Botezari village and 49 families of the Kolsa village within the TATR were rehabilitated at Bhagwanpur village, during the first phase of relocation.

Forester suspects foul play

H M Aravind & G RAJENDRA, TNN | Feb 29, 2012, 12.51AM IST MYSORE/MADIKERI: The raging wildfire at Nagarahole tiger reserve has abated, even as it is seen as an act of revenge to hit out at the forest department. Fire management by officials has come into sharp focus, with wildlife activists holding them responsible for the major damage - now estimated at some 3,000 acres of forest cover destroyed - even as they agreed with the forest department that it is a man-made calamity. As PCCF (wildlife) B K Singh arrived at the tiger reserve on Tuesday, questions are being raised over the management of the national park. "There is a human element to the fire tragedy. Miscreants are at work. But there is also failure on the part of the officials in fire management," said a wildlife activist who did not wish to be named. According to the PCCF, tribals are involved. "Our investigations suggest that some tribals are involved and we'll book cases against them. They were opposing relocation out of the tiger reserve," Singh told TOI. The fire mishap occurred at Bommadahalli, where the tribals are opposing the creation of elephant-proof trenches. The forest dept is taking satellite images from Isro to assess the damage, and find out the extent of the fire. Of the seven ranges in the park stretch, spread over 643 sqkm in Mysore and Kodagu districts, four ranges were on fire, which indicates human involvement, officials said. In Nagarahole range, which forms the heart of the tiger reserve, the fire was first noticed at Marappanakere and later engulfed the area. There is a tribal colony 2km from here, and a village 5km away, the activist explained. Chances are high that those nursing a grouse against the forest staff set off the fire, and it happened in more than one place. They may have been booked for some forest offence, and started the fire out of vengeance, he added. There has been a delay in taking preventive measures to check a possible wildfire, allege some of the wildlife activists. According to them, this could have led to the fire break out. Fire lines to control wildfires are formed during December and January; and from February, when summer peaks, fire watchers are put on duty. But the PCCF countered this, saying that sometimes, drawing fire lines early becomes ineffective. Activists said that dried bamboo catch fire quickly and help it spread. Officials and environmentalists said larger animals, including big cats, will have moved to safety, but reptiles and ground nesting birds would have lost their lives. Assistant conservator of forests ( Hunsur wildlife division) K A Belliappa said the loss is yet to be estimated. "The situation is under control, though in some places, the fire is still on and the staff are trying hard to douse it. Around 120 forest staff were deputed to control the fire in all the areas," he said. "Teakwood trees have been reduced to cinders, though the total loss is yet to be estimated," he added.

Hunting in STR, a tradition?

Express News Service BARIPADA: Tribals of Mayurbhanj district are protesting the arrest of fellowmen by the forest officials for alleged illegal hunting inside the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR). They instead complain that they are being prevented from observing their age-old tradition, Akhand Sikar (mass hunting), on the pretext of wildlife protection. A tribal leader said over two dozen elephants have been killed inside the STR and their tusks stolen by professional poachers in the last two years, but the forest officials are yet to make any breakthrough in the cases. “Innocent tribals, who go hunting as part of the tradition, are often arrested and tortured. The unsuspecting tribals are branded as poachers while the real culprits go scot-free,” he charged. Recently, the forest officials led by the Deputy Director of STR and DFOs of two forest divisions - Baripada and Karanjia in Mayurbhanj district - arrested 35 tribals from STR and seized 21 guns, bows and arrows besides nearly a quintal of meat. As per the tradition, the tribals celebrate the month-long Akhand Sikar after Damodar jatra. The village priest offers a hen to the god and then suggests to them the direction to go for hunting. The tribals use traditional weapons and the hunted animals are distributed in the clan, a local Sadananda Murmu said. Baripada DFO Bijay Kumar Panda, however, said mass hunting in the name of tradition cannot be tolerated. “Earlier they would celebrate with cocks, hens and goats. Now, they are killing precious animals and the hunting is on all through the year,” he added. Meanwhile, the tribals have decided to collect� ` 300 from each household and get the arrested released on bail.

Frequent fires destroy forest land in Nilgiris

Shantha Thiagarajan, TNN | Feb 29, 2012, 06.10AM IST UDHAGAMANDALAM: Forest fires broke out in five to six areas in the Nilgiris on Monday. A series of forest fires that occurred during February, in the three forest divisions besides the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) has damaged at least 100 hectares of forest land. According to officials, most of the incidents of forest fire were man-made. Fire fighters have been deputed inside forest areas and are vigilant. As recently as Monday, a fire broke out at two or three locations at Valley View near Ooty. Fire service personnel rushed to the spots and fought the fire which was spreading rapidly due to the winds. Forest watchers and fire fighters made their way through thick jungles inside the MTR to clear the fire lines so that fire reported at the Kerala border on Monday would not spread. "A forest fire has been reported at the Keral-Nilgiris border adjoining the MTR forests. A team of fire fighters are clearing the fire line deep inside the forest area adjoining the border," said A Pushpakaran, Forest Range Officer. According to P Raghuram Singh, Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director, MTR, there were a series of wild fires in the MTR forests this month. "Out of five ranges, three of them have suffered damages. However, only bushes and dry grass lands were damaged due. No tree was burnt as the fire was put out quickly. Fire patrolling work is in place in the MTR. Fire fighters along with anti-poaching watchers are combing the forest throughout the day and if any smoke is identified the fighters will attend to it immediately," Singh said. At least, eleven incidents of forest fire were reported in the North division of the Nilgiris forests since February 12. According to forest officials, the 11 incidents occurred in six ranges except in the Coonoor range in the division. Last Saturday, alone, fire broke out in Sigur, Singara and north range of the North division simultaneously damaging at least over 20 hectares. "Most of the fire incidents are man-made. It is festival season in a temple located in the Sigur range. People from various parts of the hill district visit it. Some miscreants set fire to the dry bushes in the forests," said S Ramasubramanian, District Forest Officer (North Division). According to records, at least 43.75 hectares of forest lands were damaged since February 12 in the North division. According to records, the South Division of the Nilgiris forests suffered damages due to fire at seven different places in the division since February 10. Two ranges, Ooty south range and Kundha range were damaged due to fire. On February 24 alone three incidents were reported in the division. Around 6 hectares of forest land was damaged due to wild fire, on Monday, at 'gene pool area' in the Gudalur division of the Nilgiri forests. This dry season the first fire in the Gudalur division was reported on January 14. "Around 35 incidents of wild fire in various areas in the four ranges in the Gudalur division were reported in the past one month. Only dry grass land and bushes were damaged in the fire," said a forest official. Over 50 hectares of forest land was ravaged in the fire in the Gudalur division. On February 22, MTR officials arrested two tribal men in connection with a wild fire on February 13. The fire destroyed at least 15 acres of dense forest land in the MTR. One of the spy cameras installed inside the MTR jungles helped the forest officials to nab the culprits.