Kendrapara: Stepping up vigil on infringement of forest and wildlife law, Bhitrkanika national park authorities in Odisha have arrested eight persons on charge of poaching attempt and trespass into the prohibited area, forest officials said on Monday.
They were nabbed in two separate incidents near Kalibhanjadiha protected forest block during last two days and forwarded to judicial custody, they said.
A poaching racket active in the area was intercepted with the arrest of four active members of a gang when they trespassed into the core forest area for poaching of spotted deer species.
Poaching implements such as spears, nylon loops and nets were seized from their possession. They also confessed that killing of deer was their seasonal business.
In another offence, four persons were intercepted while unlawfully fishing in the prohibited Bhitarkanika river system near Kalinhanjadiha forest block.
The boat used by them and the fish catch was seized. They were booked under various sections of wildlife protection act and remanded to jail custody.
"The forest department has intensified vigil on poaching activity and unlawful fishing with constitution of anti-poaching squads who are keeping round-the-clock watch on such operations," said Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Division.
Keeping tab on illegal fishing had become imperative to protect the fish and other aquatic species. The food reserve of estuarine crocodiles, which enjoyed endangered status, was getting depleted due to fishing within the prohibited Bhitarkanika river system.
As a result the crocs have gone itinerant and found straying into village-side water-bodies mainly in search of food, forest officials said.
The acts of straying of deer into human habitations expose them to poaching threat. The wild boar species also face the same threat while straying into agriculture fields.
The forest department has launched awareness on conservation of wildlife. Cash incentive scheme has been introduced for residents living along the sanctuary-side villages for information provided to forest personnel on wildlife poaching, Mahapatra said.
Stating that poaching incidents are few and far, the wildlife personnel are of the view that the deer species, as a rule, are preyed upon by estuarine crocodiles along the innumerable mangrove creeks.
The balance between the prey and the predator is ideal for the feline family to grow. But the crux of the problem, according to conservationists, is that the disappearing mangrove forest in Bhitarkanika has led to shrinkage of deer and wild boar habitat.
With mangrove forests being rapidly converted into agricultural land by illegal settlers living on the fringes of the protected forest area, it?s a grim and bleak scenario as the innocent herbivorous animals stray into paddy crop area to get trapped in the process.