At a time when animals in Satkosia face poaching threat, there are not enough officials in the Satkosia wildlife division to protect them.
The area, declared as Satkosia tiger reserve in 2007, comprises two adjoining wildlife sanctuaries, Satkosia gorge sanctuary and Baisipalli sanctuary. The reserve is spread over four districts of Angul, Cuttack, Nayagarh and Boudh in 964 sq km with 524 sq km as core area. The area is also a part of the Mahanadi elephant reserve. The sanctuary has 229 elephants including 60 tuskers, besides two Royal Bengal Tigers and 15 leopards.
At present, two sanctioned posts of Assistant Conservator of Forests in the wildlife division are lying vacant. There are five forest ranges in the division, but only two have range officers. Three forest ranges managing on their own are Tikarpada, Zillinda and Purunakote. The situation will become worse in days to come as the Range Officer at Raigoda will retire next month. Besides, the sanctuary does not have a veterinary doctor for a long time.
According to official reports, there are 17 Foresters against the sanctioned posts of 25 and 49 forest guards against the requirement of 60.
Satkosia sanctuary has 15 sections and 45 beat areas which require 135 staff. But only 97 personnel are available as of now.
As a result of the staff crunch, poachers have become active in the sanctuary. In fact, Satkosia forest officials have identified 50 armed poachers operating in the sanctuary. They hail from the periphery areas of the sanctuary and Athgarh and Narasinghpur of Cuttack district. Recently, five of them were arrested by Satkosia wildlife authorities.
Sources said many poachers have licensed guns provided by Angul administration without concurrence of the Satkosia wildlife division authorities. Besides poachers, timber mafia are also active in the sanctuary owing to lack of security provisions.
Satkosia was out of reach for timber mafia and poachers for some years due to concerted drive by the then DFO Susant Nanda from 2006 to 2008.
DFO SMT Rahman admitted to the staff crunch and said he has apprised the Forest Department about the problem.