Simlipal sealed for tribal hunters

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Baripada, Apr 11 (UNI) The authorities today sealed Simlipal National Park and its sanctuary to protect wildlife from being poached by tribal hunters.

Besides, a well-equipped anti-poaching combat, involving locals, was launched to assist the Simlipal Tiger Protection Force(STPF) to keep the poachers at bay.

Altogether 311 local youths were recruited from the villages located inside the sanctuary to intensify the anti-poaching operation and ''Mass Hunting Excursion'' by the tribals, scheduled to take place from April 13.

STR field director-cum-conservator of forest R Naga Raja Reddy said besides 716 field staff, local people had been deployed since January 5 to protect the big cats and their habitat.

Altogether 54 anti-poaching camps had been established, four of which located on ''Manchans'' on treetops.

Mr Reddy said for the first time the locals were actively involved in the anti-poaching activities. As many as 311 youths recruited from villages had been deployed to prevent poaching and entry of tribal hunters into the sanctuary.

Besides these, three sections of Armed Police Reserve(APR) had been deployed and stationed one each at Pithabata, Udala and Khejuri to meet any exigencies during the mass hunting exercise.

Every year on the Pana Shankranti day, large groups of tribals, armed with bows, arrows, axes and spears sneak into the STR through untrodden paths, outwitting the field staff of the reserve and the armed police.

They then set afire dry leaves, trap animals within a ring of fire and unleash a killing spree. This was precisely known as Mass Hunting Excursion in Simlipal and in tribal tradition more popularly called ''Akhand Shikar''.

However, the mass hunting excursion had more or less become extinct these days due to rigorous implementation of Section 17 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

This apprehension was being spelt out by the ''Dehuris'' (tribal priests) or the ''Majhi Pergannas'' who played an important role in selecting the date and place of the hunt, and announcing the same by circulating a ''Gira Ganthi'' (a knotted string).

The tribal groups were also summoned to participate in the annual hunting ritual by blowing a bugle made from the horns of an Indian Bison, said Sukhlal Hansda, a Santhal headman of Mayurbhanj.

Gurva Soren, Secretary of Society for Research and Development of Tribal Culture(SRDTC) said this age-old customary mass hunting existed even during the Raj Rule and that the Bhanja kings permitted the tribals to undertake hunting voyage in Simlipal on a date fixed by the king's orders.

As many of the species were facing extinction, it was necessary to create a massive awareness drive and induce the tribals to give up the pernicious practice of killing the protected animals, Soren said.

UNI XC-DP PL SW RN2016

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