NEW DELHI: Amid reports of incidents of forest fire and apprehensions about surge in poaching during lockdown period, the Centre has asked states to deploy staff required to operate for fire fighting in forest and continue with the movement of necessary transport for patrolling activities and monitoring of tiger, co-predators and prey species across protected wildlife areas in the country.
Citing home ministry’s guidelines on exemptions during lockdown period, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) of environment and forests ministry has sensitised chief wildlife wardens of states about the need to continue with patrolling activities.
Besides, the Authority in its communication to the wardens on Monday also said that the fire protection measures needs to be implemented “on a war footing keeping in view the sensitivity/vulnerability of the area” and asked them to intimate the NTCA of the detailed action plan taken by them on a weekly basis.
The home ministry through its guidelines on lockdown period has already put forest staff required to operate for fire fighting and patrolling, and their necessary transport movement under exempted categories so that ongoing activities to protect wildlife and forests cannot be disrupted.
Nishant Verma, deputy inspector general of forests, NTCA in his letter to wardens claimed to have received reports of many incidents of forest fires in tiger reserves through social media during the current lockdown period.
Though the letter did not cite specific incidents of forest fire, the environment ministry was earlier informed about such incidents in Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka.
Besides, officials in the ministry said there were also apprehensions about surge of poaching when movement of forest officials had substantially been curtailed and local police have been engaged in effectively ensuring lockdown to fight against COVID-19 spread.
Even renowned expert on tigers and one of the trustees of the Centre for Wildlife Studies, K Ullas Karanth, flagged this concern in his blog on Tuesday.
He, while emphasising on the need to focus on poaching issue by senior officials, said, “The police being busy otherwise and forest officials facing constraints of movement, courts being closed etc, are emboldening a new wave of poachers, as recent reports from Kodagu and Shivamogga show. This resurgence of poaching, once unleashed, will be hard to prosecute and control given other social pressures in play.”