The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Camp to target poachers and tourists

Calcutta, March 8: Alarmed at increasing poaching of tigers and the assault on their natural habitat in the mangroves of the Sundarbans, the forest department has embarked on a dual project to protect the Royal Bengal Tigers and educate people about the fragile biosphere of the islands.

A forest department official said four acres have been earmarked at Aznalimari in Kultali to set up a bio-diversity camp that will double as a centre for crackdown on poaching. A watch tower will be built to keep an eye on whoever enters the forest, with or without permission. The forest officials will be provided with binocular and night-vision glasses to keep tabs on goings-on in the area.

Two speedboats would also be at hand for the guards posted there to chase and nab poachers and other miscreants.

Apart from discouraging poachers, the camp will also play a crucial role in bringing in both foreign and domestic tourists to the region. “The camp will be used not only for clamping down on poaching as it is on the favourite route to smuggle (tiger) items to Calcutta, but also to help tourists study the Sunderbans biosphere. There will be a comprehensive arrangement so that before starting a tour in the Sunderbans, tourists can get a fairly clear idea about what they will see and enjoy,” said divisional forest officer Subhendu Banerjee.

The bio-diversity camp will be well equipped with specimens and displays to underscore the uniqueness of the 10,000 square kilometres of mangrove forest spread over 52 islands. The Sunderbans was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1985.

Work has already begun, and, hopefully, the project will be completed by July this year, Banerjee added.

The government has stepped up efforts to protect the endangered tigers after the CID seized 20 tiger skins in a recent crackdown. The haul has sent shivers down the forest officials’ spine as the CID hinted that interrogation of a person arrested during the crackdown revealed that the tigers were slaughtered in the past three months.

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