By Riyan Ramanath
BHUBANESWAR: Every year, about hundred animals are rescued by the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) authorities in Mayurbhanj district. A majority of the animals are rescued from villagers, indicating rampant poaching.
Official sources said every third day, an animal is rescued. "We rescue animals like sambar, spotted deer, wild boar and elephant cubs. Except the elephant cubs, most animals are rescued from villagers who reside on the periphery of STR," said regional chief conservator of forest (RCCF) Anup Nayak.
"Because of strict monitoring, we successfully rescue animals and try to ensure their survival. There are about 112 dedicated forest personnel in STR who carry out regular vigilance. However, since we lack the expertise to handle these animals, some of them die," said Nayak. Most animals are found injured, he added.
The STR is spread over 2,750sqkm, with a core of area of over 1,195 sq km and a buffer area of 1,550sqkm. As per the National Tiger Conservation Authority (2010 census), there are about 23 tigers in the sanctuary, while the sambar and deer population stands at nearly 30,000. There are about 9,000 to 10,000 wild boars and 350 elephants in the reserve.
Official sources said, in 2012-13, two elephant cubs died after being rescued. Similarly, many spotted deer, which had been taken away by villagers and later brought back, died. "There are professional poachers among villagers. They use arrows, ropes and poisons to trap the animals," said an STR official. He said while elephant cubs are deserted by their mothers as they leave the herd, other prey animals are trapped by villagers.
"Poaching has hit the prey base of the reserve. To ensure 100% survival of rescued animals, three of our officials received training at Sasan and Jasadhar in Gir National Park. They were trained to track the missing animals and rescue them. Secondly, they were trained on how to handle injured animals and treat them with the help of veterinary doctors," said an official.
Official sources said the density of prey population in STR has increased from four animals per sqkm in 2009 to seven animals in 2013. However, according to the Wildlife Institute of India, this is hardly enough, as the ideal density should be around 25 prey animals per sqkm.