Forest officials boycott tiger census fearing Maoist presence



Bhubaneswar: Forest officials of the Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary in Nuapada district boycotted the tiger census fearing danger to their live as they suspected a large number of Maoists have entered the area.

"That the Maoists are roaming freely inside the sanctuary area was alleged by forest personnel, who boycotted the tiger census on May 8. I have already informed the state government about their allegation," Orissa's chief wildlife warden P N Padhi said on Tuesday.

The forest officials suspected that a large number of dreaded ultras from neighbouring Chhattisgarh had entered into the sanctuary area after the Dantewada massacre on April 6.

The fear of the forest personnel stems from the recent killing of Sangram Swain, a forest guard inside the sanctuary on April 29.

Home department must be aware if there are Maoists inside the sanctuary, said forest department secretary U N Behera.

The Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary, spread over 600 sq km in Nuapada district bordering Chhattisgarh, had 32 tigers according to a census conducted in 2004.

The sanctuary comprises 15 revenue villages and is home to about 15,000 ethnic tribes belonging to Chakuita, Paharia and Bhunjiya tribes.

Naxals hoisted a black flag in the sanctuary area on Independence Day in 2009.

PTI