By Riyan Ramanath
BHUBANESWAR: Odisha government has sanctioned Rs 2.25 crore for conservation of blackbucks and freshwater turtles under a state plan scheme of wildlife conservation and protection. The wildlife wing will implement it, said sources.
"The conservation of blackbucks would include securing their habitat. Mainly, we want to keep their population intact by checking poaching. For this, we will take several measures such as engaging more manpower for vigil," said a senior forest official.
Official sources said blackbucks are seen mostly in the Balukhand-Konark coastal plain in Puri district and Balipadar-Bhetnoi and other nearby areas in Ganjam district. At present, their population is about 2,300 in the state.
According to forest officials, in 2012-13, at least seven blackbucks had died in Aska region of Ganjam district. Official report said some died due to infighting and some fell prey to poachers.
"The backbuck population has increased since 2011 despite stray casualties. Going by the July 2011 census, there were 2,181 blackbucks in Aska, Buguda, Polasara, Khallikote and Berhampur forest ranges as compared to 1,672 in 2008. Their number was 551 in 1998," said principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) S S Srivastav.
The Ghodaha reservoir in Ganjam district is home to thousands of freshwater turtles. The turtles often fall victim to smugglers and poachers. "The freshwater turtles face a threat from local people. There are instances of turtles being smuggled. So, our conservation plan would include forming a squad that would launch a drive to check poaching. Local settlers are eking out a living by traditional inland fishing," said a forest officer. He said that awareness would also be spread among the people that catching alive or killing a freshwater turtle is a penal offence.