Nuapada: An increase in poaching activities in Sunabeda wildlife sanctuary has threatened the survival of tiger population as the state government launched efforts to accord the tiger reserve status to the sanctuary, a report said.
The sanctuary was formed comprising 52 villages of 12 panchayats of Sunabeda Pati hill (Goda hill) on the western border of the state in 1984.
It spread over 600 sqkm and is situated at a height of 3,000 feet above sea level bordering Chhattisgarh. The sanctuary has become the habitat for various types of wild animals and birds.
The wildlife department conducted a tiger census in the sanctuary for the first time through the identification of pug marks in 1995.
The drive traced the presence of 10 Royal Bengal Tigers (RBT) and 41 leopards in the sanctuary. Among the RBTs, five were male and five female.
Similarly, among the leopards 10 were male, 10 female, 10 cubs while 11 could not be identified. Keeping the results of the census in mind, the Centre proposed to declare the Sunabeda wildlife sanctuary as a tiger reserve project in 1996.
In the census conducted in 1998, 17 RBTs and 23 leopards were traced in the sanctuary. In the census in 2000, 12 RBTs and 12 leopards were found to be living in the sanctuary.
In 2002 census, 24 RBTs and 24 leopards were found while in 2004 census, 32 RBTs and 36 leopards were found.
However, the census programme had to be aborted after Maoists strayed inside the sanctuary and made it their safe haven. The census was undertaken 12 years later in 2016. However, only four RBTs and 20 leopards were found living in the sanctuary.
In the 2018 census conducted with the help of pug marks and camera trapping, seven to 12 RBTs, leopards and a rare species of black tiger were found in the sanctuary.
The report was not published with doubts being raised on the claims. However, it was indicative that the population of tigers in the sanctuary declined.
Later, senior wildlife officials of the state and Chhattisgarh discussed on the modalities of implementing the tiger reserve project in Sunabeda wildlife sanctuary August 12, 2019.
Meanwhile, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) gave its approval to declare Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary as a tiger reserve project but it has not been announced as the state government is yet to give its approval.
Increased poaching activities have threatened the survival of tigers. The poachers have become active inside the jungle as forest officials have stopped patrolling inside the jungle on the pretext of Maoists.
The forest officials raided Tipajhar village under Sadar forest range and seized a severed head of a leopard and its hide, September 20, 2020. Seven poachers were also arrested during the raid.
The STF team raided Sinapali in February and arrested two traders when they were trying to sell off a leopard hide. The forest officials raided M Rampur in Kalahandi district and seized a leopard hide and arrested seven persons, July 9 and 10, this year.
The probe revealed that the hide was of a leopard from Sunabeda wildlife sanctuary. Sensing the increased poaching activities, the state government has launched efforts to declare the Sunabeda wildlife sanctuary as a tiger reserve.
Contacted, Sashi Paul, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF), said efforts are on to fulfill the norms as required by NTCA and the sanctuary will become a tiger reserve project.
Leave a Reply