Simlipal Tiger Reserve (STR) is part of one of the largest contiguous tiger and elephant habitats in the world. With a Biosphere Area of over 5,000 sq km, it is one of the most promising landscapes for tigers and their prey species. After a number of elephant deaths were reported in April and May 2010, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) constituted an independent assessment team on 3rd June 2010. The two-team members recommended local community support from peripheral areas bordering the Park. During the field visit, the team met with and interviewed a large number of stakeholders of the Tiger Reserve, including the local MLA, the RCCF, the Field Director and the Deputy Director, the ACF, Range officers, Foresters, forest guards, casual laborer, members of the Simlipal Tiger Protection Force (STPF), the then Honorary Wildlife Warden and her team, and local villagers.
After discussion with local Forest staff, the vulnerable locations and villages in and around Similipal were identified. After discussion with Divisional Forest Officer, Baripada / Rairangpur / Karanjia Forest Divisions, the list of villages were finalized. The date of conducting village level meeting was announced and local Forest staff were involved in this process.
Sri Vanoo Mitra Acharya, Secretary, SANGRAM, Miss Sanjukta Basa, Honorary Wildlife Warden, Mayurbhanj and Sri Kashi Ray Soren, Sri Laxman Murmu, Sri Ghasiram Mohanta, Sri Ghanashyam Mohanta, Sri Bapuni Mohanta and Sri Brahmananda Sing, volunteers of SANGRAM, organized village level meetings, where the local Range Officer / Forester / Forest Guard attended Hati Mera Sathi programme. The villagers were explained on importance of Similipal and the Forest and wildlife. The local VSS members / SHG groups also participated actively and expressed their views. Hati Mera Sathi group was constituted with 11 members, out of which there are 8 male members and 3 female members. The young and energetic villagers were included in Hati Mera Sathi groups. Convener of the Hati Mera Sathi group is given one mobile set with rechargeable SIM card fed with Mobile nos. of Field Director, STR-cum-RCCF, Baripada, Dy. Director, STR, Baripada, all DFOs of Baripada Circle, all Range Officer, Forester and Forest Guard of concerned areas, Sri Vanoo Mitra Acharya and Miss Sanjukta Basa to pass on the information about smuggling of forest produce and poaching of wild animals.
Because of awareness meetings in and around Similipal, there has been no Akhand Shikar during Pana Shankranti (10th April to 15th April, 2012). The Haati Mera Saathi groups of Hatigodia of Bangriposi Range were involved in extinguishing fire in Similipal sanctuary. The Haati Mera Saathi group of Champajhar intimated about threat to the life of elephant in Champajhar village, which was intimated to the Range Officer of Thakurmunda Range. Near Kantasola, the Hati Mera Sathi group volunteers detained timber smugglers and handed over timbers to the Forest Department. The Haati Mera Saathi groups of Balma and Silpuria requested for early deployment of Forester in Balma Section and Forest Guard at Silpuria to control poaching and smuggling of forest produce. Other villagers have requested to include their village under Haati Mera Saathi programme.
It is suggested that continuous follow up of this programme is necessary to ensure active involvement of the community in protection of Forest and Wildlife. Alternate livelihood programme for Haati Mera Saathi groups may be implemented to reduce their dependence on forest.