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Sharmili Mallick

The Bhitarkanika National Park authorities have started the installation of camera traps in order to monitor the movement of wildlife and poachers in the country's 2nd largest mangrove ecosystem.

The forest department has so far installed 20 of the sophisticated cameras in the first phase with plans afoot to set up a total of around 300 cameras in the park under the All India Tiger Estimation (AITE) Project, 2021-22.

As per reports, the CCTV cameras have been installed at Barunei, Dobandhi, Thakuradia forest block and Angari blocks under Rajnagar forest range in the national park. The camera setups have been equipped to store footage for around a month at a time while functioning 24X7. Special teams have been constituted to ensure flawless maintenance of the cameras.

Rajnagar Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Jagyandatta Pati said, “Boat survey and camera traps have been started for the first time in the mangrove forest in Odisha. It will monitor the movement of wildlife, patrolling staff and other human beings, including poachers and villagers in the forest areas. A pair of cameras will be installed within every two square kilometres (one-grid) area.”

However, locals and environmentalists have raised questions about the implementation of the project. They claimed that like the solar fencing project, which was brought to the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary earlier to ward off animals from straying into nearby villages failed due to lack of maintenance, the camera trap project will also be a monumental failure.

A local resident, Jagannath Das stated, “The project has the potential to protect the wildlife of the sanctuary from hunters and will be helpful in analysing the habitat of the animals and birds residing in the forest. However, I am afraid that the camera trap project will meet the same fate as solar fencing due to the lack of maintenance.”

“Is Bhitarkanika like Simlipal National Park where big animals like elephant and tigers reside whose movements need to be monitored. There is no need of camera traps here. Instead, the government should take more action on stopping rampant deforestation in the mangrove forest by prawn mafias which has been damaging the ecology of the forest,” alleged noted environmentalist, Hemant Rout.

Apart from the home to a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna, the national park is abode to as many as 1,768 saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus), as per the census held in January this year.

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