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Report exposes security flaws at Namdapha

- National Tiger Conservation Authority recommends audit and selection of staff for tiger reserve

Guwahati, Jan. 21: The National Tiger Conservation Authority has painted a bleak picture of Namdapha tiger reserve with “nominal” protection measures coupled with rampant poaching.

“There is little presence of the authorities/management in the reserve and protection has been minimal, indeed nominal, and it has pretty much been left to its own devices. As one understands, this has been the plight of Namdapha — as is evident from reports of other teams that visited the park and personal visits — for many years, and is the root of much that ails the reserve,” the report said.

Protection and enforcement in the park is almost non-existent.

“For one, there is no permanent protection camp in the reserve. The management says attempts to set up permanent camps have been futile,” it revealed.

“Even the staff is reluctant to patrol the interiors of the reserve and it was clear from our various interactions that patrolling was not a regular feature, but sporadic and occasional. They cite fear of retaliation from Lisus, lack of equipment, facilities and infrastructure. Another reason is lack of direction from superiors,” the report said.

Lisus are a hunting tribe and known to indulge in poaching inside the reserve.

“There is no provision for rations and despite this being a malaria-affected area, no preventive medicine is given. The guards are not armed, except with rifles/shotguns. Guns are not available either,” it said.

The tiger conservation authority had sent a five-member team to Namdapha tiger reserve after it got reports about rampant hunting and feeble protection measures and a senior forest officer being shot.

In February last year, camera traps set up by Aaranyak, a wildlife NGO, succeeded in capturing an adult male tiger — the first time in Namdapha.

The 1,985 square km sanctuary in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh was declared a tiger reserve in 1983.

Most tribes living around the reserve are known to be involved in poaching.

According to local sources and previous information, poachers from Myanmar are known to seek tigers, leopards, clouded leopards, bears and elephants.

“Reportedly, traders from Myanmar supply traps and also buy contraband wildlife derivatives. Poachers who come in from Myanmar also take help from local communities,” the report said.

It said it was an “open secret” that bush meat or venison is available at Miao town, the headquarters of Namdapha tiger reserve.

“It is not openly sold in the bazaar as was done earlier, but supplied directly to regular clients and influential people in the town,” it said.

The five-member team recommended that the reserve required good, effective and committed leadership, priority filling up of staff shortage, getting support from local communities, voluntary relocation of 84 Lisu families and audit of the expenditures of at least the last five years.

“Namdapha faces a number of issues, not least of which is poaching and the fact that the best grasslands have been encroached upon. If we are to save Namdapha, the current state of apathy cannot continue,” said Prerna Singh Bindra, a member of the National Board for Wildlife.


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