Several hundred tribal hunters from all over the country are expected to come to the hills of Ayodhya this year for the Shekar Usaf. Since last two years, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was not possible to hold the Hunting Festival during the Night of Buddha Purnima in the hills of Ayodhya.
A high level meeting was held which was attended by Chief Forest Conservation Officer (South West Department), Manasa Ranjan Bhatta, Director of Forest Affairs of Purulia Division Debashish Sharma etc.
The DFO of Purulia told The Statesman that the Forest Department would not allow members of the tribes to enter the hills with any weapons. He said the weapons, if found, would be seized.
“Since the morning of May 15th, hunters will try to enter the forests through Orma, Paraboom and Kentada regions. Forest rangers will be deployed for inspection and no one will be allowed to enter without permission. Besides, we have also planned various cultural programs and Ayodhya hills to distract the hunters.”
Cultural events will be held in Ghatbira, Khammar and Circusabad. The biggest challenge to forest management is to stop the poaching of many wild animals during the Night of Buddha Purnima.
Folk artists have been hired to spread awareness against poaching in places such as the jungle areas of Ayodhya, Matha, Jalda, Balrampur, Coachella and Archa.
“Through graffiti, public advertisements, and flyers, we are creating awareness. Folk artists are navigating with pumping in the villages infested with tribes to spread awareness of the importance of protecting wildlife.”
There are about 30 wild elephants roaming with three different herds in Purulia. The Forestry Department is concerned about any disturbances in the Purulia Elephant Corridor.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), more than 3,000 animals have been killed in the 500-square-foot green patches of the Ayodhya Hills in the past two decades. The WWF approved restrictions on hunting festivals in 1999 as most animals are endangered and species are rare. But despite the state forest department’s ban on the hunting festival, the tribesmen continue to hunt wild animals during the night of Buddha Purnima.
Tribes arrive not only from different parts of the state but also from other states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh by train.
Bear, spotted deer, barking deer, wild boar, hyenas, wolves, pangolins, elephants, leopards, snakes, cobras, peacocks, monkeys, porcupines, turtles, rabbits, wild hen, jackal etc. are found in the forests of Ayodhya hills. Pangolins or scaly ants are found only in the mountains of the Himalayas and in Purulia. Pangolins have been classified as an endangered species by the World Wide Fund for Nature.