Time is now ripe for setting up a Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF), experts and Forest officials say.
Published Date – 07:22 PM, Fri – 25 November 22
Hyderabad: With the tiger population increasing steadily in the State and initiatives being taken by the Forest department yielding good results in tiger conservation, time is now ripe for setting up a Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF), experts and Forest officials say.
In Amrabad Tiger Reserve (ATR) this year, 21 individual tigers, including about five females, were identified during the current year’s estimation exercise. Similarly, about six tigers have been identified in Kawal Tiger Reserve (KTR).
The ATR area spreads over 2,600 square km and there are about 25 base camps, which cover beats in the entire reserve area covering two districts. Similarly, KTR is spread over 2,010 square km covering four districts.
However, covering such huge areas with the existing forest force was challenging. Since the last five years, tiger conservation measures taken up by the department, yielded good results as the tiger population increased and there could be 26 tigers in the Amrabad Reserve alone, a senior Forest official said.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) team, which inspected Amrabad and Kawal Tiger Reserves from November 6 to 13, had also recommended setting up STPF units in the two tiger reserves.
Union government changes rules
Meanwhile, the BJP-led union government’s commitment, especially in extending financial assistance for conservation of tigers is drawing criticism from different sections. Initially, the Center used to bear the cost for setting up STPFs in tiger reserves and the operational expenditure incurred. However in 2017, the rules were changed. The Center now insists on sharing the STPF non-recurring expenditure (purchase of equipment and vehicles etc) on a 60:40 share basis and the recurring expenditure (salaries and others) on a 50:50 basis.
In 2015, after formation of Telangana, the State government had appealed to the Center to constitute an STPF. However, the proposal was rejected by the Centre, citing left wing extremism activities in the State and the possibility of weapons and machinery being snatched by naxals. Now that left wing extremism has come down to a major extent in the State, the STPF should be set up, a Forest official said.
What is STPF?
For effective conservation and protection of tigers, the Central government had approved setting up STPFs in tiger reserve forests. Each unit would have 112 personnel led by an Assistant Conservator rank officer. There would be three range officers and special protection guards. They are generally trained like Gray Hounds personnel.