By Seema Sharma
DEHRADUN: Lansdowne division corridor, which connects Rajaji National Park with Corbett Tiger Division and facilitates movement of big cats and elephants in between these two protected areas, has become a haven for poachers due to lax patrolling.
There is no provision for patrolling by forest guards in the corridor as it is not a protected area. Last week, images of three poachers were detected on camera trap used for tiger census, a forest official said. However, they escaped before any action could be taken against them, the official said.
A proposal to bring certain areas of the division under RNP and CTR, which would ensure patrolling, is lying with the state government since the last two years, a forest official added.
Rajiv Mehta, honourary wildlife warden of RNP, said, "The south side of Lansdowne borders with Bijnor district which has Amangarh range. In areas like Badapur, Sauwala and Imangarh of Amangarh, poachers have dug deep trenches to trap the animals."
He said this is the place where Bheema, the kingpin of Bavaria gang of poachers, was arrested by the forest officials. Bheema had confessed to staying in Amangarh range and Lansdowne corridor area to strategize and execute his plan to kill tigers, Mehta said. There is an urgent need to protect the Lansdowne corridor, he added.
According to sources, Lansdowne division has around 25 tigers, while RNP has around 12-15 tigers. The division also comes under Shivalik Elephant Reserve and has 100 elephants.
While RNP has been declared a tiger reserve by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and is awaiting a similar nod from the state government, there is no such proposal for Lansdowne division. RNP and CTR get funding from NTCA and have a system in place for protection of wild animals which Lansdowne does not.
Division forest officer of Lansdowne division, Nitishmani Tripathi, told TOI, "A large human settlement has grown in and around Lansdowne division over the past many years. To declare this division a tiger reserve will mean displacement of scores of people living in these areas, which will create a lot of hue and cry and political interference."
He said to avoid that, it has been proposed to merge two ranges of Lansdowne — Landang and Kotdwar — with buffer zone of RNP and two other ranges — Kotri and Dugada — with CTR. The proposal was sent to the state government for approval two years ago, but still no decision has been taken, he added.
Tripathi said for the survival of tigers of RNP, protection of Lansdowne corridor is a must as it is the weakest link which poachers always exploit for their nefarious activities in RNP as well as CTR.
"The state government must take timely steps for the merger of four ranges of Lansdowne division in RNP and CTR without any further delay," Mehta added.