The Ministry of Environment & Forests and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has released the protocols for the audit of Tiger Reserves related to their security preparedness to tackle poaching.
Main Highlights of Protocol:
Independent teams constituted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) would then carry out field visits to assess the deficiencies on ground and eventually draw up a targetted security plan, along with the tiger reserve administration.
The security audit will broadly require tiger reserves to list out the biggest threats to their protected area in the short term and long term, the strength of staff, both trained and untrained, their patrolling exercises, amenities they possess to patrol and even the resources at their disposal to investigate poaching.
Once the tiger reserves submit the details, an independent field assessment would follow. The audit protocols were unveiled on the back of a pilot study NTCA carried out in Kanha tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh and Satkosia tiger reserve, Odisha, in January to test the suitability of benchmarks.
The availability of firearms with forest foresters in combating poaching would form a crucial aspect of the audit. In only select states of the country, such as Assam and Uttar Pradesh, forest guards have limited immunity under sections of the CrPC to combat poaching rings.
In states such as Bihar, forest department does not have any firearms to deal with poachers in protected areas. Many states have written to NTCA to give forest staff a status equal to police for combating poachers.
The protocols have been developed at a time when the poaching still remains one of the biggest drivers of tiger mortality in the country’s 50 tiger reserves.