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Plan to rid reserve of cattle, poachers

Sivasagar, Sept. 27: The Sivasagar forest department has taken up a plan to make Panidihing sanctuary, a hotspot for local and migratory birds, free of largescale cattle intrusion and also augment milk production in the district.

The plan aims to free the sanctuary from all kinds of “biotic interference” — activities like cattle grazing, illegal fishing, hunting of birds and cultivation.

The sanctuary shall also be made suitable for the proposed rhino reintroduction plan of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at Panidihing.

The sanctuary is a flooded swamp of the river Brahmaputra, with an area of 33.93 square km.

Ornithologists have recently spotted 267 different bird species of which 70 species were migratory.

Panidihing is an “important bird area” and more than 27,000 birds were counted during a census conducted by a team of ornithologists in 2008.

Explaining the plan, divisional forest officer, Sivasagar, Ranjan Kumar Das told The Telegraph that often cattle in herds from surrounding 20 villages strayed into the sanctuary affecting its flora and fauna.

There have also been reports of sporadic incidents of illegal fishing, cultivation of crops and bird poaching by people of the adjoining villages.

Das said a survey conducted by the department recently found there were nearly 18,000 cattleheads in the 20 villages.

The DFO said the villagers now would be encouraged to “convert” their cattle into high-yielding breed that would produce large quantity of milk through artificial insemination, without making any payment.

It is expected that once the next generation of high-yielding breed of cows starts producing substantial quantity of milk, villagers would stop cattle grazing.

According to Das, with a simultaneous improvement in their economic condition, people will not be keen on fishing or killing wildlife inside the sanctuary.

The top district forest official said the veterinary department and a local NGO were involved in the project, which include vaccination of the cattle and supply of nutritive grass.

Das said the NGO Disangmukh Joint Forest Management Committee would conduct an awareness drive among the villagers on the benefit of getting their cows artificially inseminated and vaccinated free of cost.

The NGO would also grow grass on 75 bighas of government land at Disangmukh funds for which would come from the veterinary department.

Sivasagar district veterinary officer Lalit Kalita said under the Swarna Dhenu Yojana of the state government that was started in 2001, low-yielding breed of cows is artificially inseminated with a Jersey breed and Rs 26 per shot was charged if the animal was brought to the hospital or at a centre.

Das said under the plan the forest department would arrange camps in different areas in the villages. Veterinary teams would be provided transport and villagers could get their cows vaccinated free of cost, he said, adding that the forest department would bear the cost of insemination and vaccination.

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