Ranchi, March 18: An army would be raised to protect tigers but they would not be armed to keep preying Naxalites away.
Encouraged by the new initiative in tiger conservation with a special provision of Rs 50 crore in the Union budget, Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR) has decided to raise a Strike Force and a Tiger Protection Force.
Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) A.K. Singh said: “The guards would help us protect the tigers but they would not be armed. Arms are a sure lure for Naxalites, who could target the guards to steal the guns.”
The decision to form the squads was taken at a special meeting of field directors of tiger reserves. The National Tiger Conservation Authority had organised the meeting at Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh on March 15.
Field director of Palamau Tiger Reserve Ram Naresh Prasad said PTR had no force to guard the reserve. “But now a 31-member Strike Force would be formed and would consist of ex-army men while the Tiger Protection Force would comprise local people and ex-army men,” he said.
The strength of the protection force would depend on the grants sanctioned.
The Centre would provide funds for both the forces, the field director said.
PTR is also preparing a Tiger Conservation Plan that would be submitted by the end of this month.
“So long we had a tiger management plan in Palamau. It mainly focused on management of the tigers’ populace at the reserve. Issues such as conflict of humans and animals featured in this plan. But now, we would be formulating a Tiger Conservation Plan. One of the major issues to be tackled under the new programme is ensuring that the reserve is poaching-free. Saving the habitat of tigers and increasing grasslands to supply fodder to the carnivores would feature in the plan,” said Prasad.
The reserve is also preparing a blueprint to relocate the residents of about eight villages in the core area so that the tigers would get a better natural habitat. However, the principal chief conservator of forests said, the relocation would not be compulsory.
“There are about eight villages and we are planning to relocate them. Once the plan is ready, we will submit it to the Centre for approval. The plan would have details on the area where the villagers would be relocated and the modus operandi. All relocation will be voluntary,” Singh added.
The Palamau sanctuary was brought under Project Tiger in 1973 and is among the first nine such reserves of the country. According to the last census, there are just 17 tigers here. However, forest officials said the dwindling number cannot be attributed to poaching alone.