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Poachers from Myanmar pose hurdle to tiger census

The Hindu
21 Mar 2012

More than a month after the first-ever camera-trapping tiger census was launched at the Namdapha national park in Arunachal Pradesh, encroachers and poachers — the latter suspected to be from Myanmar — have posed a challenge to the operations.

Namdapha, with an area of 1985.23 sq km in Changlang district, was declared a tiger reserve in 1983. Changlang is one of the three districts that have a considerable presence of both factions of the NSCN.

Official sources in Itanagar said while over 80 families belonging to a particular tribal community encroaching upon the tiger reserve have refused to move out, miscreants, including Myanmarese poachers, have even taken away sophisticated motion-sensitive cameras with automatic sensors that were fitted inside the forests. In two instances since the tiger census had begun, miscreants also fired upon census teams.

“Conducting tiger census inside Namdapha is becoming a difficult task, especially because the encroachers and poachers have joined hands to resist entry of census and forest officials inside the reserve,” said M Firoz Ahmed, wildlife biologist and head of a team entrusted to conduct the camera-trapping tiger census by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NCTA) in Namdapha.

Last week miscreants removed as many as eight cameras from different locations. Forest officials have recovered Myanmarese currency notes and other documents from some makeshift camps of poachers inside the park.

The NCTA, meanwhile, has constituted a five-member fact-finding team to find out the exact ground situation in Namdapha in view of the attacks on census officials and theft of equipment.

The team, headed by an official of the National Wildlife Board has been asked to submit its report within a month.