HYDERABAD: A sum of over Rs 5 lakh was what the forest department of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state had collected in just about 9 months of 2012-13 as compounding fee in just Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts. But, ever since the formation of Telangana state, such a revenue-generating wing of the department has sunk into oblivion.
While prevention of poaching of endangered animals remains one of the most important duties of the department, such a wing to ensure the same does not even exist today. As per the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, hunting, harming or petting birds, amphibians, reptiles or mammals listed under Schedule I or II can invite an imprisonment of three to seven years whereas in the case of schedules III and IV, a compounding fee of not more than Rs 25,000 is collected.
Officials of the Telangana forest department maintain that despite receiving information on poaching activities, it is not able to serve one of its important purposes. At the time of bifurcation of the state, there was only one single team for anti-poaching activities and as per the bifurcation rules, the team was allotted to Andhra Pradesh. Further, the posts of forest range officer and assistant conservator of forest (divisional forest officers), who head the squad, too do not exist at present as the then officers were shifted to AP.
“Unless we get additional posts and the required manpower, we can do little. At present, we are managing with our territorial divisional forest officers in case we get any information,” PK Sharma, principal chief conservator of forests, said.
According to him, the department is currently working with only about 45 per cent of its sanctioned staff.
A couple of years ago, the anti-poaching squad of AP Forest department was abuzz with enforcement activities. In the earlier said nine months of 2012-13, a dozen-odd raids were conducted and as many as 12 peacocks, 504 partridges, 11 parakeets, six black-naped hares, 10 wild pigs, five star tortoises, and three Alexandra parakeets were seized by the squad.
Besides, another 490 wildlife birds, including seven spotted doves, six Indian rollers, three crow pheasants, three squirrel palms, two Mottled wood owls, two Kestrels, and a red-headed merlin of the scheduled I category, were seized at Murgichowk in the old city and handed over to Nehru Zoo Park. Listed in Schedule-I are those birds, reptiles, mammals or amphibians that are in dire need of protection.