BHUBANESWAR: In its bid to strengthen surveillance in wildlife habitats, the Forest and Environment Department is planning to install CCTV cameras in vulnerable pockets.
At present, the two tiger reserves at Similipal and Satkosia already have camera traps installed as part of the year-round monitoring of the large cats. The cameras have also captured the activities of poachers. However, the Department is keen to augment the system by encouraging other wildlife divisions to install surveillance cameras.
Principal Secretary to Forest and Environment Department RK Sharma informed on Sunday that CCTV cameras would be installed in more forest divisions as part of protective measures.
He was speaking at the 60th State-level Wildlife Week function here.
Chief Wildlife Warden SS Srivastava said in many divisions, the respective Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) have mobilised resources to install a limited number of CCTV cameras at strategic points where the systems can be guarded. In Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary, such systems have been put in place but the Department wants to extend the practice to other important vulnerable wildlife pockets to keep a vigilant eye, he added.
The Department, sources said, is willing to adopt surveillance practices in eco-tourism sites which witness vandalism but the focus would be on vulnerable pockets such as Sambalpur Division which has become a soft-target for elephant poachers.
In past few years, elephant poaching has emerged as a major problem given the rise in hunting in the State.
Information provided by Wildlife Wing suggested that at least 378 elephants have died in the State between 2009-10 and 2014-15.
During this period, at least 35 elephants have fallen prey to poaching while another 17 have died of poisoning which is a traditional method adopted by poachers and tribal hunters.
What is, however, alarming is the rising incidence of electrocution in the State. As many as 60 elephants have died of electrocution in the last half-a-decade which is a grim pointer to the growing man-animal conflict.
Of the 60, as many as 33 cases are of deliberate electrocution which take place in retaliation to crop raiding and house damage by the jumbos.
The man-animal conflict has another dimension which is reflected in human killings by the wild animals. In the past five years, at least 453 humans have been killed by the wild animals, of which 356 deaths are attributed to elephants alone.
The Government had to shell out at least Rs 33.62 crore towards compassionate payments for elephant depredation during the period. In 2012-13 and 2013-14, it paid Rs 9.97 crore and Rs 10.37 crore respectively towards ex gratia, the highest since 2007-08.
60th Wildlife Week Celebration
During the 60th Wildlife Week celebration, the prestigious State-level Biju Patnaik Award for Wildlife Conservation for 2013-14 was conferred on famous biologist Priyambada Mohanty-Hejmadi. The award comprises a trophy, citation and `two lakh in cash. Hejmadi, who is currently in US, e-mailed her acceptance letter to the Forest and Environment Department. The Department also felicitated six students who topped the State-level ‘sit and draw’ competition in senior and junior categories. Three photographers were also felicitated in the State-level Wildlife Photography Contest.