BHUBANESWAR: Even as Odisha contests the All India Tiger Enumeration Report that put the big cat population in the state at 28, the poaching of a sub-adult tigress in Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) has put the focus back on smuggling.
On March 25, the Karanjia Forest Division officials seized two skins -- of a female Royal Bengal tiger and a leopard – from Thakurmunda Forest Range. First, five persons were nabbed. Two weeks later, two more were held.
The STR officials continued investigation and seized nails, teeth, whiskers and poison-tipped arrows from the house of the offenders on April 7. Skeletal remains of the tigress were also seized.
The big cat is believed to be one of the three cubs, captured by camera trap a couple of years ago.
Investigation revealed that it was a teacher from Chirupada village, located on the foothills of Similipal, who lured the locals to kill the tigress. Govind Kisku, the teacher, had not received his remuneration for about four to five months.
“He was aware that body parts and skin of tigers have very good value. Besides, he had been contacted by some smugglers from Rairangpur about a year back. When the big cat hunted a buffalo from a nearby village last month, he persuaded the villagers to kill it and sell its skin and body parts for a good price,” Chief Wildlife Warden S S Srivastava told Express.
Although Kisku first claimed that the animal was snared, interrogation during the remand period revealed that it was poisoned and the body parts were kept at one of the offender’s house. The hunters are believed to be beginners in the trade.
STR Field Director H S Bisht said the Karanjia Forest Division officers were working on the case to establish the links. “It is necessary to know where the body parts were supposed to be smuggled to,” he said.
While mobile phone call details of the accused were being analysed to establish fresh leads in the case, the poaching has brought to fore the ineffectiveness of the Special Tiger Task Force deployed at the STR.
Tiger poaching invites a strict protocol laid down by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, under which an independent panel has to be formed to probe each and every case. Every tiger death is first treated as poaching and must also be reported to the national body, which maintains a database. But the present case is yet to be reflected on its website.
The Chief Wildlife Warden said all the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the NTCA have been met.