New Delhi: With the Simlipal Tiger Reserve facing threat of mass hunting from villagers living on its periphery, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has asked the Orissa government to deploy a contingent of state armed force in areas adjoining the park.
   
In a letter to Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Ramesh has sought his "personal intervention" in strengthening the "tiger status" in the 2750 sq km reserve in Mayurbhanj district that holds about 50 per cent of the population of big cats in the state.
   
Based on an update by a senior official from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) who visited Simlipal, Ramesh suggested that "A small contingent of State Armed Force needs to be deployed in some of the villages on the fringe of the core zone".
   
"This needs to be done especially in those villages which have the tradition of 'akhand shikar' (mass hunting)," the Minister said in a letter on Wednesday.
   
The hunting ritual of 'akhand shikar' is an important event among the people in the area. An estimated four lakh people live in the periphery of the reserve.
   
He said the frontline staff of Simlipal should be provided with fire arms with necessary training by the local police to boost their morale.
   
"The entry and exit points, besides traditional pathways leading to the reserve, should be manned by armed frontline staff," Ramesh said.
   
The Minister also suggested strengthening of joint patrolling by the State Armed Force being deployed inside the park and the local staff.

Ramesh said the "capacity building" of frontline staff deployed in the Reserve should be done, "besides filling up the vacancies".
   
He also asked the state government to expedite the process of "raising, arming and deploying" the Special Tiger Protection Force and bring the buffer area of Simlipal under the unified administrative control of the field director for effectively implementing eco development works in the area.
   
"The in-situ build up of prey population within the tiger reserve needs to be done vis-a-vis the guidelines issued by the NTCA," Ramesh said.
   
He said the Centre would provide a Wildlife Biologist on contractual basis from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to the field director.

(Agencies)