DEHRADUN: In a first, Rajaji Tiger Reserve has trained 50 forest guards as commandos to take on wildlife poachers and smugglers. Jairaj, principal chief conservator of forest and head of forest force, Uttarakhand said, “The proposed unit will act as a pre-emptive force to prevent anti-wildlife activity.”
The guards have been trained by the Grey Hounds, a commando force of Andhra Pradesh, which had helped hunt down sandalwood and ivory smuggler Veerappan and tackled Maoists in Telangana region.
Named after C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji), a prominent freedom fighter, the Rajaji National Park spread over 820 km is home to 500 species of birds, including include pea fowls, woodpeckers, peasants and kingfishers.
On March 22, 2018, skin of leopards besides flesh and bones were recovered from four different pits in Dudhia range of RTR.
The forest department had filed an FIR under the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972, and investigation was launched under supervision of the then conservator of forests, Manoj Chandran.
An investigation report in February 2019 linked the director of the park Sanatan Sonkar, warden Komal Singh, range officer Anoop Gosain, forester Ashok Singh and forest guard Pravesh Kumar along with 14 other poachers.
A petition citing the report alleged that the government did not give permission to register case and conduct inquiry into the matter, despite the report being submitted to the then forest secretary, Ranvir Singh on August 18, 2018 seeking his permission to charge the officials under Section 197 of the Code
of Criminal Procedure (Prosecution of Judges and public servants), for tampering with evidence.