|Simlipal staff to blame for jumbo killings: NTCA panel
July 29, 2010
Moushumi Basu | New Delhi
little animal presence was noted in the Simlipal Tiger Reserve. We did
not see a single tusker (for which Simlipal is renowned) or fresh
elephant dung, even though we travelled over 100 km a day…. In most
cases, the field staff who appeared de-motivated and demoralised were
aware of the elephant deaths but chose not to report them; rather they
deliberately attempted to conceal the elephant deaths/poaching
incidents, by destroying the evidence…”
The shocking findings
figure in the report of the two-member probe committee, set up
following the sensational disclosure of nearly 12 jumbo killings, and
reports of burnt carcasses in the reserve last month.
has listed at least 10 recommendations that should be implemented as
immediate priority and 25 others on the basis of regular priority. The
report calls for stringent action against field staff for concealment
of elephant deaths and destruction of evidence.
was constituted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and
its report was at last made public on Wednesday. For reasons unknown,
it was kept under wraps for considerable time after its submission. The
Pioneer had recently reported on the issue as to why the report of the
committee, comprising Biswajit Mohanty, Secretary, Wildlife Society of
Orissa and former member National Board of Wildlife along with Belinda
Wright, Director, Wildlife Protection Society of India, was kept a
Though the report mentions seven deaths,
the members had mentioned that on the day of signing of the report
there was “confirmed evidence of three more elephant carcasses and
information of seven or eight more dead elephants, bringing the total
to possibly 18 dead elephants in Simlipal, all possibly killed by
poisoning and gunshot….it does not appear that any of these elephants
died a natural death”.
The report states that of the seven
elephant deaths analysed, there is enough evidence to suggest that the
field staff were involved in the concealment of some deaths. Moreover,
there was a concerted effort to destroy the remains of at least two of
the elephant carcasses, and perhaps more, which amounts to destruction
of evidence without registering a case. The report calls for fixation
of accountability if the situation in the reserve is to improve.
has called for the setting up of an independent monitoring committee by
the NTCA. This, however, has already been done by the authority before
the report was made public.
Further, a wildlife crime
intelligence gathering system should be started. It stressed that apart
from a covert informer network system, there is an urgent need to
gather overt information from the public.
The committee has
found evidence of regular incursions of tribal mass-hunting groups of
100 to 200 members (aka Akhand shikar) from the peripheral villages.
They have been entering the park for over a year. They use country-made
guns, along with bows and arrows. It is important to seize these
illegal arms to prevent large-scale poaching of wildlife. Report
recommends for rewards to an informer if his information leads to the
recovery of such country-made guns.
The report further stresses
that “funds provided by the NTCA and/or STR should not be reallocated
or withdrawn since this negatively affects protection measures. It
pointed out that in March 2010, there was an acute need for funds to
cover the expenses for the relocation of Jenabil village from inside
the core area of Simlipal. As a result, the balance funds for critical
anti-poaching camps in Baripada Division were withdrawn to cover the
financial shortfalls of the relocation.
The report has called
for the provision of at least Rs 2 lakh every year to each of the three
territorial DFOs to carry out enforcement raids. The posts of vacant
Deputy Director and two Assistant Conservators of Forests should be
filled up immediately and park management should exercise greater
supervision and control. The staff must be duly motivated to carry out
their duties effectively.
It is important that the
confidentiality of wireless messages should be maintained, particularly
in view of reports of Left-wing extremists moving in parts of the park.
It has emphasised on enlisting local community support to keep tab on
poachers or hunters.
The members have expressed concern over the
fact that there was hardly any animal presence in the reserve during
their probe. The situation in Simlipal is chronic and a serious
overhaul needs to take place. “It is our considered opinion that unless
our recommendations are swiftly implemented by the State and NTCA, that
we may soon see a disastrous situation in Simlipal,” the members stated.
The report on SIMLIPAL TIGER RESERVE can be downloaded from the Project Tiger website: