BHUBANESWAR: To control poaching and keep an eye on the wildlife offences, the State Government will set up a Wildlife Crime Cell. The special cell will be operational at the Crime Branch of State Police under the command of its Additional Director General of Police.
This was announced by Development Commissioner UN Behera at the State level Wildlife Week function here on Monday. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik inaugurated the function.
The wildlife crime cell proposal has been pending with the State Government for a while. Once it receives the formal approval, officers from the Forest Department, with experience in wildlife and specialisation in crime control, will be posted at the unit.
A major cause of concern has been elephant poaching in the State. In the last seven years, at least 39 elephants have been poached in Odisha while 63 have been electrocuted. Another 34 have been killed in accidents.
The State Government has been coughing up huge amounts as compassionate payment for loss of human lives, cattle kill, damage to house and crops caused due to man-animal conflict. In 2013-14, the State paid about `11 crore in compensation which jumped to `17 crore last year.
Speaking on the occasion, the Chief Minister said impact of development project and man-animal conflict are some of the major challenges of wildlife conservation in the State. To ensure prompt payment of compassionate grant, the responsibility of field staff has been brought under the Odisha Right to Public Services Act 2012.
Naveen also expressed satisfaction that census figures have shown a rise in the numbers of elephants, blackbucks and salt water crocodiles.
On the occasion, the Chief Minister gave away the State level Biju Patnaik Award for Wildlife Conservation to Shatrughna Rout of Mayurbhanj. Rout has been instrumental in checking wildlife crime by his prolonged association with the Wildlife Wing.
Forest and Environment Minister Bikram Arukha said the Government has taken several measures for protection and conservation of wildlife and their habitats in the State.
Naveen also unveiled a book ‘Whales, dolphins and porpoises of Odisha’ on the occasion. Jointly authored by Chief Wildlife Warden SS Srivastava, Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Sudarshan Panda and Zoology lecturer at VD College, Jeypore, Muntaz Khan, it is a maiden attempt to document the population, biology and distribution of the cetaceans in the State.