STR steps up anti poaching to preven-tribals mass hunting

Baripada,Apr 6: The Simlipal Tiger Reserve (STR) encompassing a total area of 2750 sq km, has stepped up anti-poaching surveillance to prevent the tribals' ''Mass hunting Excursion'', better known as ''Akhand Shikar''.

According to age-old customs, large groups of tribals armed with bows and arrows, hunting axes, and spears sneak into the animal-rich areas of the reserve through untrodden paths and unleash a hunting spree on ''Chaitra Sankranti'' day on April 14.

Just prior to setting out for the annual hunt, the ''Dehuris'' (tribal priests} perform some ''Puja rituals'' invoking the blessings of the ''Marang Buru'' (Supreme mountain god) for a successful hunting voyage.

Society for Research and Development of Tribal Culture(SRDTC) Secretary Gurva Soren said the STR authority should first win the hearts of the ''Dehuris'' and seek their co-operation to stop this Mass Hunting Excursion.

Geographically, Simlipal is the fourth biggest reserve, next only to Nagarjunasagar with an area of 3560 sq kms in Andhra Pradesh, Manas with an area of 2840 sq kms in Assam, and Indravati with an area of 2799 sq kms in Madhya Pradesh.

STR Field Director H S Upadhaya said a three-pronged strategy has been chalked out and implemented to prevent the ''Akhand Shikar'' ritual.

At least ninetythree strategic camps has been established in all its 226 forest compartments with seven Range Officers, 23 Foresters, 58 beat Forest Guards and 450 casual labourers manning these camps.

''The strength of the camps will be further reinforced and reorganised if the situation so demands,'' the Field Director said adding that some of the anti-poaching camps have been set up on tree-tops and covered with green foliage to keep a distant view on the poachers' movement.

The personnel guarding the camps have been asked to keep a round-the-clock vigil to intercept any new person entering into the ''Core Area'' and detain him for interrogation if necessary.

An intensive awareness campaign has been launched with a special emphasis on announcements in the ''Haats'' (weekly village markets) to persuade the fringe area villagers to refrain from participating in the shikar rituals or any type of poaching.

Mr Upadhaya said if the ''preventive'' and ''persuasive'' efforts failed to yield results, the STR would resort to the combative strategy as the last option to prevent the illegal poaching and killing of the mute animals.