Even as the expert committee constituted by the Wildlife Wing is giving final touches to its report to enhance protection measures for the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR), serious staff shortage in the ranges has hit the conservation activities leaving the park at the mercy of poachers and smugglers.
Of 19 ranges of STR in its core and buffer zone, seven ranges are managing without full-time forest range officers which speaks volumes of the Forest and Environment Department’s apathy towards the critical habitat. What is worse, five of these range offices are in the core of imilipal Tiger Reserve.
Reliable sources said Udala, Bangiriposhi (both in the buffer zone), National Park, Nawana North, Upper Barahkamuda, Jenabil and Pithabata (all in core) ranges are doing without range officers.
For three ranges, officers from other ranges are in additional charge while foresters are managing the show in four others.
While the Department has been sitting pretty on the postings, some of the critical range offices are running the risk of facing a breakdown in the management.
A case in the point is Upper Barahkamuda, right in the heart of Similipal, which is doing without a range officer since March as the officer who was transferred from Balasore Division to be posted there, has not joined.
Reliable sources said the range officer has been on leave on medical grounds while the office of the Regional Chief Conservator of Forests, Baripada Circle has rejected his medical certificate. Contacted, RCCF Anup Kumar Nayak said that the range officer has been asked to face the Medical Board.
While such instances have affected protection measures in the core areas, the absence of full-time officers in Udala and Bangiriposhi has encouraged the poachers to enter the critical areas of the tiger reserve.
Since most of the smugglers reside in the villages on the fringe of Similipal Tiger Reserve, absence of range officers has emboldened them. Meanwhile, the expert committee, headed by former Chief Wildlife Warden Saroj Patnaik, is finalising its report on enhancement of protection measures in STR.
The report is expected to be submitted next week. Members of the panel had a meeting with Chief Wildlife Warden JD Sharma two days ago.
* Serious staff shortage in the ranges has hit the conservation activities
* Of 19 ranges of STR in its core and buffer zone, seven ranges are managing without full-time forest range officers
* Absence of full-time officers in Udala and Bangiriposhi has encouraged the poachers to enter the critical areas of STR