BENGALURU: Ivory seizures and poaching of elephants have witnessed a rise in the last two years in Karnataka and neighbouring states, according to TRAFFIC India, the country’s wildlife trade monitoring network.
But Karnataka Forest Department officials maintain that more seizures do not mean poaching has increased. Instead, they insist that detection has been better due to effective policing.
Speaking to Express, Dr Shekar Kumar Niraj, head of TRAFFIC India says, “Contrary to belief that poaching has peaked only in the last two years, we have found that it has continues unabated in the three southern states as also in Odisha, West Bengal, and Assam. Five to six years years ago, it was cyclic and incidents of poaching used to rise and fall. But now it is not the same as per our statistics.”
Most of the elephants poached are wild, and not captive, while the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve seems to be the poaching hotspot.
“There were a couple of seizures in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and what we feel is that the forest departments do not have much of intelligence gathering or information to contain poaching activities,” Dr Niraj added.
But Chief Conservator of Forests, Kodagu division, Manoj Kumar counters the claim saying that seizures in the last two years have been more as detection of offences by forest officers had risen. Most of the seized tusks have been removed from elephants that have died natural deaths and in all cases, the offenders were caught and cases booked against them. These poachers have no link to international smuggling market, he said.
He added, “In the Kodagu division itself, we saw three classic cases in Madikeri, Pushpagiri and H D Kote. Two were natural deaths where the tusks were stolen by opportunistic poachers while in Madikeri, two elephants were shot in a coffee estate to remove the four tusks.
However, in the border areas which is a no-man’s land, it is a different ball game as poachers kill in one state and transport the tusks to another state.”
Dr Balrame Gowda, Deputy Superintendent of Police, CID Forest Cell, added that ivory is sold at `1 lakh per kg and with each tusk varying from 8-12 kg, it is worth `8-12 lakh. The demand for ivory is huge in southern parts of Karnataka for making artifacts and handicraft items, he added.
There is still a huge demand for ivory both in the domestic and international markets, Dr Niraj adds. “In India, states like Gujarat, Bengal and others, there is a big demand for making carved bangles and artifacts. In the international market, till China clears its ivory stocks, there will be a lot of trading and demand for tusks.”