Poachers get very active during winters when icy cold winds from snow-clad mountains makes patrolling a challenging task. This is especially more so for the anti-poaching cell that is hit by a severe manpower crunch.
Besides, its intelligence network is poor, making tracking poaching activities even more difficult.
The situation has come to such a pass that the anti-poaching cell chief admits that he wants to do a good job but simply can not as there are no people to work with. Besides, infrastructure at his command is poor.
Paramjit Singh, director Anti Poaching Cell, told Hindustan Times that without manpower it was very difficult to work. "Its a single man army. Neither I have people nor the infrastructure. It’s difficult to work under such circumstances. Winters are ideal time for poaching. I want to work, but how?”
The poor intelligence network to assist the anti-poaching cell, its task becomes that much tougher.
"The forest department in Uttarakhand does have an intelligence network to keep a watch on poachers but it exists only on paper", said Rajendra Agrawal, a member of the State Wildlife Board in Nainital. The Anti-poaching Cell - Wildlife Conservation and Intelligence is under the Chief Conservator of Forests for Wildlife Protection. This post has been created recently, he said.
"The network that was set up in 2006 is now almost dead in absence of funds and manpower", said the Board member who also heads an NGO namely Wildlife Protection Society of India. "As a result, there has been a spurt in poaching cases in Uttarakhand and the same goes for the incidence of animal parts being smuggled out of the region to countries like China via Tibet, Nepal and Delhi, where they are in great demand", he added.
But the forest department has an entirely different take on the issue. In fact, the department pats itself on the back for the good job it has been doing, as there were no officially recorded instances of poaching of animals in the state over the past two years.
SS Sharma, Uttarakhand Chief Wildlife Warden said, "It’s an achievement that no poaching case was recorded for tigers, elephants and musk deer. The forest department is making tremendous efforts and the figure explains their toil." He said that other than winter patrolling, night patrolling too was strengthened in every forest division. Only five cases of poaching of leopards were recorded this year.
A source working with the forest department, however, said that he had himself exposed two cases of poaching involving musk deers. And there could be many more that were not recorded. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity.