Namdapha in peril
Reports about rampant hunting and feeble protection measures at the Namdapha tiger reserve have prompted the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to send a five-member fact-finding team to the forest.
The team, comprising two members from the National Board for Wildlife, will study the effectiveness of the monitoring and protection measures at the reserve, over and above looking into the reasons behind the rise in poaching and hunting incidents. It will also study the involvement of local people in the protection and monitoring mechanism at the reserve.
The team, comprising A.J.T. Johnsingh and Prerna Bindra of the board, Gautam Narayan of the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme, Jyoti Das, consultant, NTCA Guwahati office, and Rajeev Sharma of NTCA Delhi office, has been asked to submit its report within a month.
Sources said the situation had turned worse in the past few days after suspected poachers escaped with eight cameras and a few memory cards used for camera trapping tigers in the reserve.
The equipment belonged to Aaranyak, an NGO, which had deployed 80 cameras in a 300 square km area.
A delayed report reaching here said poachers had also shot at a senior official of the state forest department. “A detailed report will be sent by the department on the incident and on the steps required to restore normality,” a forest department source said.
The source added that the protection network in the reserve was feeble, giving hunters a free run.
“The park needs to improve its protection mechanism from scratch,” said Firoz Ahmed of Aaranyak who was involved in the camera trapping initiative.
The 1,985 square km Namdapha tiger reserve in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh was declared a tiger reserve in 1983.
One of the biggest threats to protection and conservation efforts in the reserve is posed by settlements of the Lisu community in its core area. Altogether 84 families of the community, which migrated from Myanmar in the 1930s, are settled in five villages deep inside the forest area.
The management effectiveness evaluation report on the reserve said, “Since they (Lisus) occupy the interior areas, there is no mechanism to monitor their activities. Attempts to relocate them have not yet succeeded because of lack of areas to rehabilitate them together.”
The other threats identified in the park are timber operations in the fringe areas, inadequate manpower and infrastructure development, advanced age of available forest staff and insensitiveness of the local administration towards encroachment and other offences.
The report said the Lisus did not cooperate with the tiger reserve authorities and had even burnt down anti-poaching camps. “There is no protection measure in the areas bordering Myanmar,” the report added.
The six existing patrolling/anti-poaching camps are all on the western part of the reserve, leaving the rest of the park unprotected. The border near the largest Lisu village, Gandhigram, which is closer to villages on the Myanmar border, is also not patrolled.
The report added that there had been multiple seiz-ures of Myanmar-bound tusks and other animal parts from the area, indicating it was bei-ng used as a trafficking route by animal parts smugglers.