According to sources, the Maoist were threatening forest personnel not to implicate villagers for their role in laying electric trap to prevent elephants from straying into their paddy fields. The rebels say the villagers have the right to protect their paddy fields from the attack of herds of elephants, and the frest department cannot prosecute anyone if elephants are electrocuted in the process.
Almost a month ago, a guard in Satkosia tiger reserve was allegedly assaulted by the Maoists for naming villagers indulged in wildlife crime.
This facet of the extremists has come at a time when elephants across the state were facing deaths due to deliberate electrocution. Between January and June this year, the state has recorded deaths of 16 elephants. On Saturday, a tusker died of electrocution in Dhenkanal district.
Requesting anonymity, a senior wildlife officer said field personnel were under tremendous fear to nab villagers who violated wildlife rules because of the support they get from the rebels.
In December 2015, security personnel and Maoist rebels exchanged fire in Purunakote.
The Satkosia Tiger Reserve spreading over 933 sq km comprise two wildlife divisions – Mahanadi and Satkosia. The movement of the rebels has been witnessed in Satkosia division which houses four eco-tourism sites.