Locals stage protest demanding safety after tiger relocation in Satkosia

Angul: Relocation of a tiger into the Satkosia Tiger Reserve from the Kanha National Park has sparked unrest among locals in villages surrounding the forest who took to streets on Thursday seeking safety of their lives and livestock.

Alleging indifference by the administration, hundreds of residents from as many as 20 panchayats under the reserve took out a mass rally under the banner of  ‘ Satkosia Khyatigrasta Surakhya Samiti’ (SKSS) and marched up to the District Collectorate where they staged a dharna.

People furious over relocation of the tiger also threatened to kill the tiger if the forest officials do not fulfil their charter of demands.

“We don’t oppose the presence of the tiger but on pretext of increasing the wildlife population, we are being denied basic rights. Roads through the forests have been shutdown affecting our movement. The fear of the animal has affected almost everyone and there has to be a solution to this harassment, ” Biraj Jani, an activist of SKSS said.

“We discussed the matter with senior forest officials several times but there has been no headway so far.  If the collector does not resolve the matter, we will be forced to intensify the agitation and gherao all range offices in coming days,” a local resident Dileswar Pradhan said.

Angul ADM Tapan Kumar Satpathy informed that the villagers have submitted a nine-charter point of demands showing concerns regarding safety of their lives and livestock. “They have also alleged that wild life related issues have led to underdevelopment of the area. A meeting will soon be held in presence of all stakeholders to sort out the matter,” he said.

Meanwhile, playing down the protests, Forest and Environment Minister Bijayshree Routray said “As there is plenty of food and adequate space for the movement of the Tiger in Satkosia, there is no need to panic.”

Earlier on July 6, a Royal Bengal tiger brought from Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh was released into the tiger reserve for breeding and enhancing tiger population in the region.

The tiger nearly 3 years old and one of the best specimens of Kanha Tiger Reserve was brought to the Satkosia forests as a part of the country’s first inter-State tiger relocation exercise.

Meanwhile, another 2-year-old tigress relocated to Satkosia from Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in MP a week later on June 28 as part of the pairing initiative with this tiger is yet to be released into the wild.

The tigress is slowly acclimatising to its new climate in a specially designed enclosure inside the reserve, informed sources.