Athagarh repeat in Similipal, elephant killed by poachers, burnt by forest staff in Similipal Tiger Reserve
Jenabil forest range comes under Similipal South forest division but the divisional forest officer (DFO) had no inkling of the incident which is believed to have occurred on December 7.
Published: 12th December 2022 05:31 AM | Last Updated: 12th December 2022 05:31 AM | A+A A-
BHUBANESWAR/BARIPADA: Shocking report of a tusker allegedly poached by hunters in the core area of Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) and its carcass burnt by forest staff in a bid to destroy evidence has triggered massive outrage.
A red-faced Forest department placed under suspension three personnel including the in-charge range officer in connection with the incident which occurred under Gurandi beat of Jenabil forest range, part of the inviolate core critical area of the tiger reserve.
Jenabil forest range comes under Similipal South forest division but the divisional forest officer (DFO) had no inkling of the incident which is believed to have occurred on December 7.The matter came to light after field director and regional chief conservator of forest (RCCF) T Ashok Kumar received an anonymous call and an inquiry was launched. Some locals had apparently raised the alarm.
Kumar led a team which carried out search on December 8. After failing to find any clue on the first day, a bigger team involving around 50 personnel of both Similipal South and Similipal North divisions scanned the entire Jenabil range the next day.
With the help of a forest dweller, they managed to trace the location and found small-sized bones from the area. It prima facie found lapses on part of the forest staff of Jenabil following which the department suspended Jenabil range officer in-charge Shiv Shankar Samal, forester Chandrabhanu Behera and forest guard Binod Kumar Das.
The attempt to sweep the incident under carpet comes at a time when the Orissa High Court is hearing a case related to deaths of jumbos and suppression of evidence by field staff which led to constitution of a joint task force (JTF).
It was alleged that the forest staff burnt carcass of the poached elephant and flung the charred remains into a nearby stream to destroy evidence. The poachers had apparently removed tusks before fleeing without raising any suspicion.
During investigation, the Similipal field director said, the forest staff admitted to have found a one week old carcass and disposed it off. “Based on this, we have suspended three staff and carrying out further investigation,” Kumar said.
PCCF (Wildlife) SK Popli said the bones recovered from the spot have been sent to the Centre for Wildlife Health at OUAT Bhubaneswar for examination. “We are waiting for the report to take further action in this matter,” he said.
In 2010, STR had grabbed headlines after carcasses of at least 14 elephants were recovered between April and May by an independent inquiry committee of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). The probe panel had suggested exemplary action but in vain.Wildlife lovers have again raised concern over the poor monitoring and protection in the tiger reserve.
“That poachers could enter the core area with ease and killed an elephant must wake the government from of its slumber. Accountability must be fixed at the higher level, not just low level staff in a knee-jerk reaction. What happened in Athagarh Forest Division earlier this year must not be repeated here,” said a retired forest officer.