Sunday, February 19, 2006

Chhattisgarh tiger census suspended following Maoist threat

Chhattisgarh tiger census suspended following Maoist threat

Sunday February 19 2006 00:00 IST



RAIPUR: The annual tiger census in the Indravati national park has been suspended after Maoist rebels denied enumerators entry into the sanctuary, a senior forest official said on Saturday.


Over 25 forest officials had begun the census Feb 10 at the Indravati national park, 480 km south of here, in Dantewada district that is largely controlled by the Communist Party of India-Maoist.


"We collected tigers' pugmarks on Feb 10-11 in some areas of the park. But then we were forced to suspend the census because of fresh threats by Maoists," said H.C. Tiwari, state conservator of forests (wildlife).


"The park area is entirely commanded by rebels. They have triggered some blasts near the park site and officials have no option but to stop the census work midway," Tiwari told IANS.


The park, included in the central government's Project Tiger programme in 1984, is one of India's 28 tiger reserves. It is spread over an area of 1,200 sq km.


Forest officials have never stayed in the park during night since Nov 1, 2000 - when the state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh - due to the rebel threat.


However, officials add that the Maoist rebels imposed a total ban on poaching in the park in 2002, resulting in the increase in the tiger population - up from 29 in 2002 to 39 last year.


Maoists who operate out of forest bases in nine states of the country say that they are fighting for rights of poor peasants and landless labourers. They have killed hundreds of security personnel and others over nearly four decades.


To dismantle rebels' terror networks and recover the explosives that they had looted in a raid Feb 9, the central government Thursday sent an anti-terrorism squad of the National Security Guard (NSG) that launched Saturday an aerial and ground offensive again rebels in Dantewada district.


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