BHOPAL: Putting essential staff of the forest department on Covid-19 duty has cost 3 wild animals their lives due to poaching, claim wildlife conservationists. Three blue buck were poached in the Acharpura belt of the forest department in Bhopal. Such incidents also cause a threat to around 9 tigers present in this range.
Taking objections over the development, environmentalists have asked the government if it is waiting for a tiger to die. They have also demanded that the forest staff be put back on their original duty. Vital forest staff entrusted with safeguarding animals against poaching has been deputed in nearby areas to check “whether people are wearing masks properly”!
In a recent incident of arrest of a few poachers, the forest department officials have to call up the Sukhi Sevaniya police as they were short of staff. Following the awkward incident for the forest department, the responsible officer of the flying squad, RK Chaturvedi, has demanded people and written to the divisional forest officer (DFO), Bhopal, HS Mishra, to that effect.
Single-member CRACK team
Bhopal forest division currently operates with 165 people, of whom 90 personnel have been put on Covid-19 duty. Further, 19 personnel are assisting the mining department in road barrier checking. The anti-poaching squad — more commonly known as the CRACK team of the department — is now a single-member squad. Forest guards of Samardha and Berasia range are completing duties in urban areas. Sources in the department said, when the officials came across the inputs of poaching and the flying squad was summoned, not a single member was available. Once arrested, the 3 poachers were taken to court by a single forest employee for appearance, jeopardising the arrest.
While the patrolling of the tiger dominant axis of the forest stretch has been affected, it has also affected routine work. Sources said, in another incident of poaching of a blue buck, the poachers escaped as only a single forest personnel could reach the spot; outnumbering the forest staffers, the poachers escaped. “Are three incidents of poaching not enough to wake the authorities, or are they waiting for a tiger to die?” asked Jagdish Chandra, retired IFS officer and a nature-lover.
‘Exemption from duty’
"The division officers have been put on Covid-19 duty, which has led to a shortage of personnel. We’ve written to senior officers about the issue seeking exemption of forest staffers from Covid-19 duty," said HS Mishra, DFO, Bhopal forest division.