BENGALURU: During continued search operations in the forests, coffee estates and surrounding villages in connection with the Tanigebailu Sambar poaching case, a gun was recovered in Kemmanagundi Nettichowka area late on Tuesday evening. Forest officials suspect the involvement of more people in the case and there are likely to be more arrests in the coming days, according to sources.
On Sunday, 11 people belonging to four families from Bengaluru, Hassan and Chikkamagaluru districts were arrested and remanded to judicial custody for 14 days as they had killed the protected Sambar species in the Tanigebailu Forest Range of Bhadra Tiger Reserve.
Forest officials said search operations were still going on in different locations in Kemmangundi, Sakleshpur and Tarikere even as investigations are going on to ascertain the modus operandi of the offenders.
Speaking to Express, Karunakar P B, Conservator of Forests, Bhadra Tiger Reserve, said, “We have enough evidence to nail them. However, the main accused Rafiq Ahmed, who is a professional shooter and has, in fact, killed the animals, has to be caught. Our investigations have revealed that they must have been involved in earlier hunting incidents too, maybe, two or three times. The way they had hacked the Sambar indicates they are used to cutting cattle.”
Without local help, these outsiders could not have done it as they wouldn’t be knowing the route, the presence of Sambars, their location in these forest ranges, he said. “Out of the 12, four are locals from Attigundi village who helped them in tracking and hunting these protected animals. Under the Wildlife Protection Act, the offenders are liable for punishment for a period of 3-7 years depending on the nature of the crime,” he added.
The Bhadra Tiger Reserve has 39 Anti-Poaching Camps with 156 personnel manning the 492 sqkm area with pristine forests and steep hilly ranges. Both on the western side from N R Pura, and on the eastern side, it is easy to enter the forest. Karnunakar adds, “There is shortage of regular watchers as also at the level of foresters and guards. However, we have been managing with the existing staff strength.”
G Veeresh, a wildlife activist from Chikkamagaluru adds, “The problem is not inside the Bhadra Wildlife Sancturay as they have enough protection, but in the local forests, especially in the Muthodi territorial division. Anti-poaching camps should be established here to tackle hunting and poaching of Sambars, spotted deer, gaur, mouse deer and wild boars.
Unlike in the anti-poaching camps, in local forests, the foresters, after duty hours, go back to town as they do not have quarters to stay. This is the time when hunters take advantage and so heavy poaching and hunting has been going on in the fringes of Bhadra.”
The Bhadra Tiger Reserve is spread over forests ranging from dry deciduous to semi-evergreen and comprises the scenic hill ranges and steep slopes of Mullayanagiri, Hebbegiri, Ganegegiri and Bababudangiri hills. It supports a wide variety of fauna ranging from tigers, leopards, leopard cats, sloth bears, elephants, gaurs, bonnet macaques, Chitals and the Sambars.