The Hadagarh Elephant Sanctuary and the Chakratirtha Biodiversity Area under Anandpur Wildlife Division in Keonjhar district are rich in flora and fauna. Due to staff shortage, timber mafia and poachers are having a field day here.
The region is spread over 10,420 hectare in Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj and Balasore districts. Only 13 forest staff, including guards, are engaged to protect the sanctuary.
According to a recent study by the forest department, the sanctuary is home to 140 rare species of flora. Recently a Royal Bengal Tiger was sighted in the sanctuary and the forest department claimed it as a good sign. According to the last census, there are 25 elephants in the sanctuary out of 51 in the division. Besides, deer, bears, foxes, reptiles, insects are living in the dense forest. Functioning of several mines near the sanctuary and human habitations inside it are posing threat to the sanctuary. According to the department, around 7,000 tribal people are living in 16 villages inside the sanctuary.
“The government is neither taking steps to stop mining activities near the sanctuary nor shifting the tribals to outside,” said a green campaigner. Official sources said in last five years, 268 people were arrested in 258 cases under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, in the sanctuary.
At least 45 people were arrested in as many cases in 2010-11. In 2011-12, 24 were arrested in 24 cases where as the number rose to 62 in 62 cases in 2012-13. In 2013-14, 89 people were arrested in 79 cases while 2014-15 saw arrest of 48 people in 49 cases. The forest department seized huge quantities of forest produce, timber and other items from them.
Five persons were arrested in connection with elephant poaching and 12-kg ivory seized. Three elephants were killed by the poachers in the last five years, the sources said. Four persons died in attacks by elephants and other wild animals. “More guards should be deployed for the protection of the sanctuary. Similarly, the mining activities near the area should be stopped,” said campaigner Subhakanta.
Divisional forest officer (Anandpur) Sangram Keshari Behera said, “Regular patrolling is being done in the sanctuary. We are keeping a close eye on the movement of the timber smugglers and poachers. We are taking the help of villagers for protection of flora and fauna.”
“We are taking steps to shift the villagers outside the sanctuary by providing them all facilities according to the government rehabilitation and resettlement policy,” the DFO added.