Move comes after WPSI data reveals three tigers, 15 leopards, other endangered species poached in large numbers in state this year alone
Taking cognizance of increasing incidents of poaching across sanctuaries and national parks in the state, the forest ministry plans to strengthen its anti-poaching measures by roping in informers, and offering rewards for updates on illegal activities involving wildlife.
This development comes after the ministry sought data from the Wildlife Protection Society of India, which claims that three tigers and around 15 leopards, along with other endangered animals and birds have been poached in large numbers this year alone in the state.
The maximum numbers of cases related to poaching and other illegal activities involving wildlife have been reported in Maharashtra in 2012. "As the sanctuary areas are well-protected, most of the incidents of poaching are happening outside the borders.
We are strengthening the anti-poaching system of informers and forest guards to ensure that the corridors between the two paths of the sanctuaries and the villages are protected," said principal secretary (Forest) Pravin Pardeshi.
Upon receiving tip-offs from informers, the forest department will take action against those involved in any sort of attack on wildlife. The ministry will also employ ex-servicemen as forest guards on contract basis with a payment of up to Rs 12,000 per month.
The state was forced to look into the matter after experts and wildlife activists complained that the forest department was not sufficiently able to protect the sanctuaries and territorial areas, even though only 20 per cent of the area in the state came under the national park and forests, while the rest is urban area.
"The department should enhance its Rapid Response Unit (RRU), which could be more effective in curbing these incidents, which at present is not active. As soon as they receive news of poaching or any attack on animals, the RRU team should be dispatched to restrain the mob," said Dr Anish Andheria, a wildlife expert.
Experts have also stressed on the fact that not only has the forest department been lax in enforcing extra patrolling in the wetlands, but has also failed to keep a check on illegal firearms used by locals to poach wildlife. Last year, activists from Plants and Animal Welfare Society had shot a video of poachers killing flamingoes at Bhigwan and Baramati. Despite an uproar over the matter, the forest department had failed to take any action.
Gruesome find In the past week, the forest department discovered two leopard carcasses with the paws hacked off near Palghar. Last month, the officials discovered tiger bones near another village of Maharashtra, which hinted at poaching.