Thursday, February 17, 2011

Simlipal National Park to Tighten Its Security Against Poaching

An Indian elephant in Simlipal National Park

The Simlipal National Park of Orissa is considered to be one of the most important wildlife sanctuaries in India. It was one of the first national parks to be placed under Project Tiger in 1973. Its very name derives from the abundance of red cotton silk trees, which contribute to its vivid beauty. But in recent times, the park's beauty has been deeply disturbed by a massive onslaught of poaching which is taking toll on its elephant population. Only recently, four elephants (three females and one male) were killed. But what was even shocking was that forest officials unsuccessfully tried to underplay the slaughter. According to enquiries, the officials sawed off the male's tusks to make it look as if all four were females who had died either by natural causes or poison used in agricultural fields.

This brazen killing was one of many that have taken Simlipal by storm. Last year, nearly a dozen elephants were brutally massacred as confirmed by a two-member expert team sent by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. That same year, in June 2010, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had notified the constitution of a seven-member committee to closely monitor the Simlipal's functioning. One of the people present, Biswajit Mohanty, initially stated that the state government was responsible for the mass killings of elephants. He wrote in a letter to Minister Jairam Ramesh demanding the revival of the committee. However, he was later informed that the state government had not approved of the committee. In addition to that, Simlipal's chief wildlife warden P.N Padhy expressed his shock over this brutal killing and stated that strong action will be taken. This includes protection measures, internal vigilance, and streamlining of staff. He further added that the park's staff has received help from local people in recruiting 465 youths to guard 85 camps and 127 eco-development committees.

Although I'm glad to see that Simlipal National Park is receiving help from the local people in terms of wildlife protection, I'm worried whether the staff will be prepared to face against an attack by the Maoist rebels. Two years ago, the rebels had destroyed the park's infrastructure which forced the authorities to shut it down for tourism. During those raids, the staff refrained from patrolling the forests for fearing the rebels would kill them. Because of this fear, poachers and wildlife smugglers were able to benefit in massacring a large scale of endangered wildlife including tigers and elephants. There is also a similar situation in the Palamau Tiger Reserve in the state of Jharkhand. Forest rangers have stated that the poachers regularly threaten them against complaining the authorities. I personally feel that Orissa, Jharkhand, and other states affected by the threat of Maoist rebels should team up together with the Indian government in a battle against this terrorist organization. Not only have its members been responsible for deaths of thousands of people in such states, but also benefited the poachers so that they can pillage and plunder the local protected forest areas however they wanted and whenever they pleased. This is why I believe it is necessary to take drastic measures against this violent organization before it makes another move.

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