Saturday, September 1, 2007

Jodhpur struggles to curb poaching

31 Aug 2007, 0258 hrs IST,Avijit Ghosh,TNN

JODHPUR: Under staffed and under equipped, the forest department of Jodhpur district is struggling to curb poaching. Senior wildlife officials admit that the department is short of investigating officers. Official statistics show investigations are still pending in six wildlife cases filed in 1991-92.

Statistics also show that since 2001-02 to July 2007, of the 227 wildlife cases filed, 122 minor cases were disposed of by the department. But of the remaining 105 cases, only 22 made it to the courts. Seventy-four cases are still under investigation and nine were abandoned for lack of evidence.

Significantly, of the 22 cases that reached the court, only one has been decided so far. High court lawyer Anil Kaviraj explains the delay. "Wildlife cases hardly get any kind of priority," he says. And B R Bhadoo, DFO, wildlife wing, Jodhpur admits, "The conviction rate is extremely low."

According to forest department statistics, since 2000-01, there is a marginal decline in the number of wildlife cases in these parts. That year, the number of cases registered reached an all-time high- 61. But, barring 2001-02 and 2005-06, when 46 and 51 cases respectively were registered, the number has hovered below 40. In 2006-07, it stood at 31.

Jodhpur's forest department's wildlife wing is now tackling the manpower shortage on the ground. Next month, they plan to recruit 20 ex-servicemen as forest guards. But the shortage of officers and vehicles remains. "We are often busy catching poachers. Methodical investigation of a case takes a lot of time which we don't have," says Bhadoo. Sometime back, Rajasthan forest minister Laxmi Narayan Dave had spoken of setting up an anti-poaching cell. Bhadoo admits that the wildlife department is hugely aided by Bishnois in their anti-poaching work. "Poachers kill chinkaras, blackbucks, deer, wolf, monitor lizards. Bishnois provide us with information on their whereabouts. It is an ecological community that shows how humans can co-exist with wildlife," he says.

On Wednesday, Rampal Bhavad of Bishnoi Tiger Force donated a Bolero to the Jodhpur forest department for better monitoring of the area.


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