WII Asks MP Police to Close Probe in Tiger Collar Hacking Case
The Wildlife Institute of India has requested the MP Police to close its probe in a case of alleged hacking of a tiger's digital collar, saying one of its employees had made "genuine attempt" to access data to monitor movement of the big cat.
Madhya Pradesh forest department had in September last year asked the state police's cyber cell to register an FIR to probe alleged hacking attempt by a Pune-based techie to access data from the collar on P-211, code name for a tiger which was then relocated from Panna reserve to Satpura.
"It appears that the investigation has found that one of our researchers Sunal Romain has made the access using the mobile network account of Pappu, who is our field assistant working with us for the last four years.
"Mismatch of the location has created this confusion i.e. the location was shown as Pune while the mobile connection was registered at Madhya Pradesh and the use was done in Dehradun," Dr K Ramesh, a scientist of Dehradun-based WII, said in his communique to MP Police.
"In my knowledge, the attempt to access the data from satellite collar by Sunal Romain was genuine as he is part of our monitoring team and, therefore, the case may be withdrawn," he said.
Following WII's response, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Narendra Kumar wrote to MP Police withdrawing his complaint and requesting closure of the case.
Earlier, Ramesh had in one of the meetings involving Madhya Pradesh forests officers has red flagged the issue, saying somebody had tried to hack into the Iridium Satellite Collar from Pune.
"I had also stated that our arrangement with satellite collars is fool-proof with double security system and it may not be security risk to animal. But it was worth investigating the matter to be on a safer side," Ramesh said in his email to Kumar.
The collar was put on the tiger by WII officials. In a related move, Principal Forest Conservator and Area Director of Satpura Tiger Reserve R P Singh had in August last year asked the PCCF to disengage Ramesh from the project of monitoring p-211 tiger citing his 'insensitiveness' in the matter.
"It seems that WII officials are unaware of their research fellows activities. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) must seek an explanation from WII," said wildlife activist Ajay Dubey, who had got copies of communications among WII, Madhya Pradesh forests department and police through RTI query.
Six tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh — Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Panna, Bori-Satpura, Sanjay Dubri and Pench — are home to 257 big cats.
The tiger population in the country was estimated to be 1,706 as per data collected in 2010.