Cassian Baliarsingh

Even as Odisha government makes tall claims of preserving the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) Forest, the poaching threat still looms large owing to the shortage of staff, lack of infrastructure, and logistic support for frontline forest staff.

Recently, the state government provided 14 customised vehicles to be deployed in the protection of the STR. Interestingly, with more than 50% of various posts lying vacant, there is an urgent need for the deployment of more armed staff. 

Moreover, 14 vehicles are not enough to guard the entire 2750 square km area of STR. At least 26 vehicles are required to guard and counter poaching activities inside the tiger reserve. According to the latest reports, at least 181 posts of foresters and forest guards are currently lying vacant. 

While 40 forester posts are lying vacant in the northern Similipal division which has only 16 foresters.  Similarly, 51 posts are lying vacant out of sanctioned posts of 81 forest guards here. Similarly in the southern Similipal division, 12 foresters and 43 forest guard positions are lying vacant.

Moreover, there is an urgent need for modern arms and ammunition to tackle the poachers who are using modern techniques to wipe out wild animals from the reserve forest. 

Wildlife Expert Bhanumitra Acharya said, “Only getting new vehicles would not help. They also have to maintain the old vehicles. They do not change the wheels, or repair the broken parts, and due to this, the vehicles cannot even race through a ghat and run very slowly. The fate of these new vehicles will also be the same in a few days. Moreover, there is no need for vehicles in Similipal.”

“There are over 180 vacancies of different posts in Similipal National Park right now. In such a scenario, how do you expect the forest to be safe from poachers and illegal activities? Instead of giving new vehicles, the government should recruit more people. The irony is there are not enough people to even drive the vehicles,” said Khageswari Sethi, Secretary of Odisha Forest Guard Association. 

When contacted, RCCF, Similipal, Prakash Chand Goganei said, “There are enough vehicles as of now. But, we may need another 10 vehicles in the next 2-3 years.”

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