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Call to protect wildlife

Shillong, June 12: Officially, Meghalaya has 11 endangered species.

Forest and environment minister Prestone Tynsong revealed this fact in the Assembly today. He said the endangered species are slow loris, hog badger, binturong, clouded leopard, Hoolock gibbon, common Indian monitor, yellow monitor, water monitor, Indian rock python, tiger and great-pied hornbill.

In reply to a question by leader of the Opposition Donkupar Roy, the minister said the government has taken measures to preserve the endangered species by strict enforcement of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. He said there was provision for safe havens for wild animals in sanctuaries and national parks, improvement of habitat by providing watering holes, artificial salt licks, planting of wild fruits and fodder species.

On protection of flora and fauna, he said other measures were declaration of community reserves to facilitate a joint venture between the government and the community, constitution of joint forest management committees around protected areas and in villages situated in the vicinity of animal corridors as well as organisation of voluntary protection squads.

Though Tynsong claimed wildlife divisions have been adhering to and implementing the act strictly, Roy did not agree. “The wildlife divisions have failed to strictly enforce provisions of the act,” Roy said.

He suggested the government undertake aggressive campaigning on the need to preserve the species, especially the endangered ones, and introduce wildlife as subject in schools to raise students’ awareness about their environment.

Opposition legislator Clifford Marak sought to know if the forest department has provided sophisticated weapons to forest guards since militants attacked a wildlife office in Garo hills and killed some animals.

“Earlier, some animals were killed by cadres of the A’chik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) and now the GNLA has killed some for food,” Marak said.

The minister said forest guards did have weapons (rifles) but not sophisticated ones and there were some situations where police assistance was sought.

The minister, however, did not answer in the affirmative when Marak asked if there was a proposal to purchase sophisticated arms.

Another Opposition legislator James P.K. Sangma pointed out that the government has failed to include the red panda in the endangered list though the animal is found in Balpakram National Park in Garo hills. He demanded a fresh census be conducted to identify various species especially the critically endangered ones.

Tynsong said the endangered list was taken into account as provided by the Zoological Survey of India, which had last conducted census in 1994.

To a query by Opposition MLA Jemino Mawthoh regarding the government’s stand on hunting of animals as part of a ritual, Tynsong said, “Let’s forget about customary practices and rituals. We have to implement the wildlife act.”

It has been a practice at Nongtalang village in War Jaintia area near the Indo-Bangladesh border, where the entire village used to celebrate the killing of a big cat through the Rongkhli or Tiger Festival.


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