Mysore, Jul 6 (UNI) The Forest Department has its task cut out in Bandipur and Nagarahole national parks in the region to strengthen the 'anti-poaching squad' to control the poachers and timber smugglers.
The latest shootout between forest guards and timber smugglers at Mettikuppe adjoining the Nagarahole park, where they tried to cut costly trees, was a warning to the Forest Department.
Sources in the Forest Department told UNI that it was not for the first time that the department staff came face-to-face with 'timber mafia,' that operated with relative impunity and took shelter in neighbouring Kerala.
But these were professional gangs over which the authorities have kept a tight vigil and were alert to their movements. However, the threat arised from local gangs, whose members masquerade as villagers enaged in gathering timber for fuel. In fact, the forest staff were at the receving end of the villagers wrath, when they opned fire on a local gang at Gendettur village in H D Kote taluk sometime ago, the sources said.
It was easy for the department to handle inter-state gangs that were part of the larger mafia, but it was the local gangs that cause much of heartburn as little action could be initiated against them due to the political pressure and support from the local community.
This antipathy against the forest department nurtured by the villagers adjoining the national parks was a direct outcome of the man-animal conflict that had increased over the years, they said.
During summer, lack of water and fodder in the parks forced animals to stray out of their habitat and raid agricultural fields and the entire year's hard work of the farmers get ruined. But the compensation offered by the department was pittance compared to the market price that crops command, the sources added.
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