Vikash Sharma

Bhubaneswar: Even as a devastating wildfire continues to devour the Similipal Tiger Reserve and Sanctuary in Mayurbhanj district in Odisha, 140 km west in Keonjhar district poachers allegedly set the Jharabeda jungles on fire to hunt wild animals.

As per reports, three poachers have been arrested on Friday for causing the fire that has spread to a large portion of the Jharabeda reserved forest (under Bimala forest beat) of Telkoi forest range in Keonjhar district.

The accused have been identified as Jugal Juanga, Gobardhhan Juanga and Raju Juanga of Namkani village.

Telkoi forest range officer, Pitambar Sethi said, “We had initiated special measures after repeated incidents of forest fire were reported in the forest. Later, we found poachers were setting fire in the forest for hunting of wild animals.”

Sethi informed that a patrolling party on Thursday night spotted three persons armed with bows and arrows and asked them to stop. “However, the armed miscreants threatened and attacked our team in which a forest guard sustained multiple injuries,” he said.

Sethi said despite coming under attack, the patrolling party managed to capture the miscreants and confiscate their weapons. Later, during questioning, they admitted to have set a part of the forest on fire to flush out pray animals for hunting.

Also Read: Not Just Similipal, 394 More Forests Are Burning In Odisha Since Past 3 Days

“The fire fighting operations are on to prevent the fire from spreading further and douse the flames,” he added.

It is pertinent to mention here that a forest fire which started in Similipal Tiger Reserve last month has been raging for the past 10 days. Though the forest department has augmented efforts to douse the flames, the wildfire continues to spread in over 30 fringe areas of the park and the adjoining sanctuary.

PCCF (Wildlife) Shashi Paul claimed that out of the 209 beat areas in Similipal, massive fire was reported in only 2-3 places which is under control now. Only dead leaves and bushes were affected by the fire while trees have been spared.