By Riyan Ramanath V.
Wildlife officials have claimed that threat to elephants in the Similipal Tiger Reserve has reduced since 2012 with the strengthening of the intelligence network to track down the movement of poachers.
They said the entry of professional poachers from Manipur and Jharkhand has been successfully restricted. Official sources said the number of elephants since 2012 has not diminished and that there have been no reports of poaching. The maximum number of deaths of elephants was reported in 2009, 2010 and 2011. "In the last four years, as many as 20 wild tuskers were killed either by poisoning or firing, reducing the total number of elephants in the sanctuary to 330. This was the handiwork of professional poachers," said the regional chief conservator of forests (PCCF), Anup Naik.
He said last year three wild elephants were poisoned to death by poachers. Sources said Lisu tribes of Manipur, known for their skills in poaching wild animals, were hired by villagers to kill the jumbos. The poachers had a free run inside the sanctuary after the intelligence network failed following the Maoist attack in 2009. Professional poachers also sneaked into the sanctuary and killed the elephants.
The sanctuary had 350 elephants in 2009. Although 20 of them were killed by poachers, the birth of about 23 elephant calves in the last four years has maintained the balance.
In February, 2011, 14 elephants were killed by poachers. A National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) team found the elephants were either poisoned or shot. "About 415 anti-poaching staff was deployed with VHF radio sets for effective surveillance," said an official of the sanctuary.