Trained security personnel equipped with sophisticated weapons will soon be seen guarding tigers in Uttar Pradesh as the state government is all set to form a a special Tiger Protection Force to protect the big cats.
"We are in the process of setting up a special protection force, which will be in addition to existing security staff including forest guards," Chief Forest Conservator B K Patnaik said.
The exercise has been launched at the behest of the Union Environment and Forest Ministry.
According to a census carried out by the state in 2005 there were 164 tigers in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, spread over 1362 square kilometre area which includes three regions Dudhwa and Kishanpur in Lakhimpur district and Katarniya Ghat in Bahraich district.
"As per the 2005 census report carried out on viedography method, there were 77 tigers in Dudhwa and 29 in Kishanpur regions, whereas 58 tigers were sighted in Katarniyaghat area," deputy filed director of Dudhwa National Park P P Singh said.
Data complied by Project Tiger indicated that the population of big cats had declined drastically in the state in the last two decades.
While in 1989, the estimated population of tigers was 735, it reduced to only 284 in 2001-2002.
Concerned over the dwindling population of tigers in the states, the Central government has directed all the states to set up Special Tiger Protection Force, a senior forest official said.
"The move not only aims to check poaching of tigers in the state, but also to keep a track on the movement of big cats in jungles as there had been a number of incidents in recent past where tigers or leopards have strayed in human habitats," he said.
"The special force will comprise of 63 constables, 90 jawans, three sub-inspectors and a deputy commander, who will be stationed at tiger reserve. The jawans would be below 40 years of age. A corpus of Rs 93 lakh had already been provided by the Centre for the establishment of STPF," Patnaik said.
He said the STPF jawans will be imparted special training for the purpose and equipped with sophisticated weaponry, including assault rifles, 9 mm pistols and other modern gadgets.
Though the number of tigers had reduced in two decades, there had been no major incident of poaching of tiger in the state in last two years.
"In 2007, four persons were arrested in Lakhimpur district and a tiger carcass was recovered from their possession. That was the last incident of tiger poaching in the state," forest department officials said.