Forest officials in Karnataka have arrested two villagers for allegedly setting fire to forest land at Bandipur Tiger Reserve, burning down several hectares of land, NDTV reported on Monday. The two men were reportedly arrested on Friday.
Range Forest Officer of Gopalaswami Hill Limits Puttaswami H said the two men – Hanumanthaiah and Gopalaiah – have been sent to judicial custody. “They had lit a fire in order to stop tigers from entering into their village as they were being spotted in the area for a month or so,” Puttaswami said. The villagers belong to Chowdalli village in Uttar Kannada district.
Puttaswami told Bangalore Mirror that the villagers were scared the tigers would attack them or their cattle and lit the fire to scare the tigers. However, the fire spread rapidly because of the wind, he said.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Punati Sridhar, said three people have been arrested so far in connection with the fire and all three have been remanded in judicial custody, reported The Times of India. The other arrested person was identified as Arun Kumar of Kallipura village near GS Betta in Chamarajanagar district.
Bandipur Tiger Reserve Director T Balachandra said forest staff were working hard to prevent another forest fire. “Another ninety days are crucial,” he told The Times of India. “We are using our network to trace the people who may have lit the fire.” He said quick response vans and fire engines were stationed at three places, while tribals living in settlements near the forest were being employed as fire watchers.
The fire broke out on February 21, fanned across Kundakere, Bandipur and Gopalaswamy Betta ranges of the park. Helicopters of the Indian Air Force later joined efforts to douse the blaze. Forest Minister Satish Jarkiholi had said 2,000 hectares of forest land had been affected, but some reports said over 10,000 hectares had been damaged. The Bandipur Tiger Reserve is spread over 87,000 hectares.