Vikash Sharma

Home to a wide range of wildlife species, Odisha is trying hard to protect the animals and at the same time dealing with the challenges of poaching and man-animal conflicts.

On World Wildlife Day, we try to look at the key problems being faced in the wildlife protection.

Poaching

Be it elephants, leopards and other animals, poaching tops the list of biggest threat to the wildlife animals in Odisha. 

Status of Leopard in India 2022 report highlighted that leopard population in Odisha recorded a decline. 

As per the report, the total number of leopards in the state stood at 568 than the previous count of 760 in 2018.

What Officials Say? 

Odisha Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Susanta Nanda recently refused to accept the authenticity of the report.

As per Nanda, the report stated a huge decline in the number of leopards in Odisha as less number of camera traps have been used in the tiger census carried out by the NTCA in 2022 in comparison to 2018.

NTCA had installed cameras in as many as 14 places of the State during the leopard census conducted in 2018. 

In 2022, cameras were installed only in three places - Simlipal, Satkosia, and Sunabeda. No cameras were installed in the buffer area of Simlipal where maximum numbers of leopards are found, said Nanda.

Why Poaching Of Animals?

It seems that wildlife smugglers are eying Odisha which is home to a variety of species. Though poachers have been arrested and wildlife products seized and even live Pangolins have been rescued, a complete check to bust the racket has not been possible so far.

It is suspected that a number ivory, Pangolin scales, leopard and other animal skins are being smuggled to different parts of the country and even abroad through multiple channels from Odisha.

Success of Enforcement Agencies In Odisha

The Special Task Force (STF) is doing a commendable job as far as nabbing poachers, wildlife criminals and rescuing endangered species is concerned.

The Joint Task Force (JTF) recently cracked  a 4-year-old mystery surrounding leopard poaching case.

The case was cracked following investigation after a leopard skin was seized from two accused, who fled the spot on February 5, 2024.

However, the duo was nabbed subsequently.

A total of seven persons were arrested in this connection. 

According to officials, the leopard was killed in 2019 using a clutch trap. It is not clear whether the trap was laid for a leopard or some other animal. But after the leopard was caught, the accused conspired to strike a deal for the skin and other parts.

Of the accused, who was arrested from Mohana in Gajapati district, had kept the leopard skin for three years for drying.

New Initiatives In Odisha

The Odisha government has decided to conduct a tiger census every year. The census will be conducted with the help of camera traps and the movements of tigers will be monitored throughout the year.

As per the first All Odisha Tiger Estimation (AOTE) report 2023-24 conducted by the Odisha Forest Department, there are 30 tigers and eight cubs (under less than one year) in the state.

The 27 tigers include 14 males and 13 females. The STR has the highest number of 24 big cats. It has 11 usual morph tigers (seven females and four males), 13 pseudo melanistic tigers (seven females and six males), and eight tiger cubs.

Rapid Response Teams formed in Odisha

The forest department has constituted Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) to address various issues arising out of man-animal conflicts as well as rescue animals in distress.

About 18 dedicated RRTs comprising 10 personnel in each team for six divisions have also been constituted in the state.

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