500 census cameras in tiger reserve removed

Decision to remove cameras comes after threats by Maoist rebels who suspected spying on their movements

Patna: Authorities have removed all 500 high resolution cameras installed in the lone tiger reserve in Jharkhand state for the census of big cats after being issued severe threats by the Maoist rebels. The removal of cameras has badly hampered the counting of tigers.

All these cameras were installed at Palamu Tiger Reserve located amid the dense forests surrounded by mountains, also a home to Maoist rebels.

Since the tiger reserve area is considered the hub of the rebels, the forest department officials refused to venture out in the deep jungle to count the big cats owing to lurking fear of the Maoists who are said to have planted heavy landmines in the areas to protect their safe haven from the security forces.

In recent years, forest officials have stopped going into the jungle after the state government launched an intensive operations to free the areas from the clutches of rebels, resulting in frequent encounters between the rebels and the security forces claiming many lives from both sides.

Given the prevailing situation, the forest department had installed the high resolution camera traps in the tiger reserve to know about the number of the tigers. Equipped with motion and infrared sensors, the remotely-activated cameras were being used to capture the picture of the big cats in estimating their population and their prey base. But much before they could start capturing the pictures of tigers, they had to be removed as the Maoists threatened the officials with dire consequences.

What prompted the rebels to issue threats was their apprehension that these cameras would also record their movements which meant possible attacks on their base by the security forces. “All cameras have been removed following threats by Maoists,” Palamu Tiger Reserve director MP Singh told the media today.

As per reports, the rebels also snatched GPS devices and two camera traps from forest guards and also asked a team of officials to leave the reserve immediately while they had gone there for study.

“Perhaps they might have thought the cameras would also record their movements which might be used in police combing operation. We will again try to install cameras in the winter season but if the rebels oppose again, we will have no option than relying on the conventional method of scat samples for estimation,” the director added.

The removal of cameras as a result of the increasing conflict between the rebels and the security forces in the meanwhile has badly hampered the counting process now. “We have informed the police, state government and the high court about the security concern,” state chief wildlife warden LR Singh said

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