CHITTOOR: Unemp loyed due to Covid- 19, many youngsters who did menial jobs have turned to poaching of wild animals, and sell the meat in the open market to make a living. The hunting of spotted deers and sambars near Chittoor villages that border forests has seen an exponential rise due to high demand of the meat. There are 360 villages in the district that border forest areas and fall under Palamaner, Kuppam, Punganur, Chandragiri and Puthalapattu segments.
The district has a forest cover of 15,151 sq kms, and a majority of the wildlife is found in Seshachalam and Koundinya forests. The Koundinya Wildlife Sanctuary is spread from Bangarupalyam to Palamaner and Kuppam, and also borders Karnataka. According to official reports, the forests are home to 80 elephants, over 7,000 deers of different species, bears, and peacock. From almost no hunting last year due to the lockdown and strict vigil, the situation has, however, seen a turnaround as the state reels under the second wave of Covid. “Jobless youths from villages close to the forests choose nighttime and crude explosives for hunting. They receive orders on phone and payments online. One kg of spotted deer meat is sold for Rs 350, and the same quantity of wild boar meat for Rs 300,” said K.Raju, a resident of Bangarupalyam mandal.
Many youngsters in Chittoor district who did menial jobs in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka were forced to return home after the states announced lockdown. While some themselves hunt, others assist the local hunters. Even instances of the locals setting their dogs free upon spotting deers and small animals near the villages has also increased. While smaller preys are killed on the spot, the larger and injured ones are later hunted down. After the issue was brought to the notice of Chittoor West DFO Ravi Shankar, he said officials concerned will be instructed to keep a vigil on the hunters’ movement in the forest areas.