Pasighat – ( By Maksam Tayeng ) The D. Ering Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary here in East Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh which has been in news for quite some time from around a decade now due to its struggling process to get revived from its past lost glory but in between time and again the sanctuary falling prey to hunters/poachers due to shortages of staffs with certain negligence of some insincere staff has once again need attention of higher authorities for all round protection of the sanctuary.
The DEWS located in the riverine islands of Mighty Siang river right from near Pasighat township to Assam-Arunachal boundary with a total area of 190 Sq KM and divided into three Ranges like Borguli, Sibiyamukh and Anchalghat for better and proper administration and protection, is one of the toughest and most difficult wildlife sanctuary in the state and the country to control and administer.
The Mighty Siang river (Brahmaputra) on touching the plains of East Siang district near district HQ:Pasighat, the oldest town of Arunachal Pradesh, flowing all the way from across the border Tibet through mountainous gorges, gets separated into several branches of rivers and forms several small and big islands.
These islands most of which are covered with open and tall grasses including thick evergreen forest with canopies in the core zones areas houses several species of wild animals, reptiles and birds some of which are among the rarest of the rare on the verge of extinction. Right from Elephants, Hog Deer, Sambar, Barking Deer, Wild Boar, Pygmy Hog, Wild Buffalo, Bear, Leopard etc reptiles and migratory birds are visitors of this sanctuary.
The unique ecosystem of this sanctuary has made it a natural habitat for different species of birds including migratory birds like cranes, wild ducks, storks, waterfowls, etc also which come from Siberia and Mongolia from September to February every year.
As per experts and researchers from Bombay Natural History Society from Maharastra, this sanctuary is one of the best habitats for the Bengal florican and many threatened grassland birds too. Bengal Florican is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List because fewer than 1,000 individuals were estimated to be alive as of 2017. It is the only member of the genus Houbaropsis and D. Ering WL Sanctuary is home of several numbers of Bengal Florican, as informed by Asad Rahmani, former Director, BNHS.
Though this sanctuary holds so much importance by housing all varieties of wildlife species from Elephants, Leopards, Deers, reptiles, rare birds like Bengal Florican including inter-continental migratory birds, aquatic species like Dolphines besides fishes like Mahseer, the DEWS haven’t received its share of required government attention yet due to which eco-tourism, wildlife tourism and water-sports etc hasn’t began here till now which in turn would have generated enough employment opportunities for the unemployed youths and other villagers from the fringe villages of this sanctuary.
The employment generation through wildlife tourism at the lines of Kaziranga National Park, Assam for the fringe people of DEWS would have also reduced the dependency of some people on the sanctuary for meat and economic gain (selling of killed wild animals) about which the present state government under the young and energetic Chief Minister, Pema Khandu need to work out.
However, besides government negligence as quoted, one of the reasons why the sanctuary has not been properly secured from hunting and poaching till now despite the sanctuary is naturally protected by the surrounding rivers of Siang from almost all sides, is due to shortages of staff and other infrastructures. The sanctuary is presently manned by few regular male staff, i.e. 7 field staff (Fr, Fgd, Dy.FR) excluding 3 Range Officers with the help of around 20 Contingency staffs.
But the 10 female staff (Fgd) posted against the DEWS are not useful in the field patrolling duties due to several reasons of difficulties in crossing the Siang rivers, tough grassland and chasing of poachers etc. As per Divisional Forest Officer, DEWS, Tasang Taga shared that the female staffs though deputed in the field duties are not discharging their duties citing various reasons. “I had written and apprised the PCCF Wildlife Office about the need of replacing female staff with male staff, but despite the appeal the DEWS is becoming a dumping ground for female staffs”, said Taga.
Meanwhile, when contacted about the need of replacement of female staffs with the male staff, G. Kumar, IFS, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife & Biodiversity cum Chief Wildlife Warden), Itanagar said that, he will surely look into the actual and ground need of the DEWS. Kumar assured to replace the female staff with male staff who will be more efficient and useful for the protection of the sanctuary as the landscape and tough tall grasses with location of the sanctuary in various parts of island makes it difficult to do patrolling duties where female staff naturally fails to deliver their services.
It is needless to mention here that some of the female staffs are taking posting voluntarily in the D. Ering Wildlife Sanctuary on the general belief that the female staffs here are not given field duties and they receives their salaries sitting at home and only visiting the division office though their duties are officially at the respective range offices in the field. Due to such negligence and evading of duties by female staff including some of male staff who are also not regular in patrolling duties thereby leaving the survival of many endangered species of wildlife on the hands of Contingency staff.
Finding the weaknesses and negligence of some regular staff, few dreaded and habitual hunters/poachers from the fringe villages took advantage of the situation and hunted several wild animals in recent times too. In such one of the hunting incident which was reported recently one of a departmental contingency staff from Borguli Wildlife Range was found involved in hunting inside the sanctuary leading the gang of hunters who is said to have hunted/killed and let other killed by sharing the departmental staff presence and absence inside the Sanctuary besides leading the hunters to the core zone where wild animals in abundant. However, he along with his co-hunters were finally arrested vide Pasighat PS Case No. 131/2020 U/S 447 IPC R/w Sec-27(1) Arms Act, Sec-51(1) Wildlife Protection Act 1972 on 13th and 14th August 2020 and the erring contingency staff was sacked from the service.
When asked about why the DFO was not taking action against such erring staff, he is said to have been bound and his hands tied with the interference of political party leaders which are sadly a true state of affairs in almost all the departments in the state today. Even after arrest of habitual hunters, in most cases, interference of political leaders to release the hunters early is a common practice here due to which hunters/poachers have less fear of laws and punishment though wildlife protection sections are serious in nature. However, with the assurances of PCCF Wildlife, G. Kumar, DEWS is likely to get due attention in coming days including the attention of Chief Minister, Pema Khandu who holds the portfolio of Environment & Forest in the state cabinet