Maoists let tiger census officials enter their den
Gyan Varma / DNATuesday, April 6, 2010 1:29 IST
New Delhi: Even as security agencies are busy fighting the bloodiest battle against Maoists, the red brigade is actually helping the environment and forests ministry conduct the tiger census.
For the first time in a decade, wildlife officials have managed to enter three tiger reserves in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand that were earlier out of their reach.
After having detailed discussions with the Maoists in these three jungles and helping them understand the threat to Indian tigers, scientists and forest officials finally managed to enter Indravati tiger reserve in Chhattisgarh, Simlipal in Orissa and Palamu in Jharkhand.
“These tiger reserves are Maoist dens. But this time, we will have tiger census in these areas. Census in Indravati will be conducted in the second phase that would start after the monsoon,” Qamar Qureshi, a scientist in the Wildlife Institute of India that is spearheading the tiger census, said.
Senior officials of the National Tiger Conservation Authority said not just helping with the tiger census, Maoists have even agreed not to attack forest guards and offices in these reserves.
“During the last census, we could not find out the number of tigers living in those areas because they were completely under Maoist control,” said a senior official in the environment ministry.
The officer said tiger figures were expected to go up since these reserves have remained out of reach for humans. “We expect a rise in tiger population because no one has dared to go inside these reserves for years. Maoists are known to protect wild animals. Even poachers won’t dare enter these reserves,” the official added.
“We have been allowed limited access to the area. But at least we would know the state of the big cats in these reserves,” the official said.
Sources in the ministry also said attacks on forest officials and guards have stopped in Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh because of the regular discussions with the red brigade.
“We are in regular contact with Maoists and they have agreed not to attack forest guards and officials who are deployed in these jungles for the protection of wild animals,” the official said. He said discussions with Naxalites started after the red brigade destroyed a forest office in Simlipal.