Thursday, July 09, 2009

Rebels prey on wild cats

New Delhi, July 8 (PTI): In the absence of the promised central paramilitary forces, the Orissa government is struggling hard to protect the state’s wildlife from poachers, who, the state stresses, are backed by Naxalites, especially in the rebel-hit Similipal Tiger Reserve in Mayurbhanj.

At a May meeting between central and state representatives, the Union government had agreed to deploy 221 CRPF personnel in the reserve that has been facing acute infrastructure and staff problems after a Naxalite attack on March 23.

Fearing that rebels might strike again, the Orissa government had sought for CRPF deployment in the reserve that houses at least 32 wild cats. The state government had cited threats from poachers, who the government alleged were being supported by heavily armed rebels, as a justification for the demand.

“Though the Centre agreed to our demand and referred the matter to the ministry of home affairs (MHA) we are still waiting for the force,” said a senior official in the state forest department.

He added that the situation at the reserve was improving only slightly. Scared forest staff, who had run away after the March attack, were joining duty and two special striking force units of Armed Police and Special Operations Group Force were posted at the park. Despite that, the park was not completely secured.

“There have been reports that show that poachers have been receiving the support from Maoists. Hence another attack cannot be ruled out. To save the tigers we need to have trained personnel there,” said an official.

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