BENGALURU: Hunting of Indian monitor lizards for its flesh and skin in the Western Ghats has been increasing as its protection has not attracted much attention despite its inclusion in Schedule 1 list of the Wildlife Protection Act. One of the most vulnerable species in India, their population is on the decline in many states with rampant trading of its parts.
Recently, a gang of hunters reportedly poached a number of Indian monitor lizards in Balehonnur Range in Koppa territorial forest division. With local residents complaining, the Forest Department is now on a lookout for the offenders and is ascertaining whether they are regular poachers.
The hunt took place on January 3-4, when the gang -- Appu, Saif, Naveen and his brother (as seen in the pictures) -- posed for selfies and displayed their ‘trophy’. The gang is believed to regularly hunt in these areas.
Local residents told Express that range forest officials did nothing when they complained and these youngsters had been indulging in poaching for many days in this area. “They are a group of youngsters and Appu, the gang leader, has been involved in sandalwood smuggling cases,” a villager said.
Chief Conservator of Forests, Chikkamagaluru Circle, Range Gowda said they had initiated action to catch the hunters. “Unless we catch them, it is not possible to say whether they are poachers or just a group of youngsters. However, in these regions, hunting of these animals may be happening within the estates, but not in forest areas. So it is difficult to ascertain where the animals were poached as this species is found in both forests and estates. But once they are apprehended, they will be thoroughly interrogated.”
However, wildlife activist G Veeresh said, “Rampant hunting has been going on in the Balehonnur range and the range officer has not been taking any action. Sometimes they stray into coffee estates, but usually they are hunted in forest areas. Last week, they hunted monitor lizard, tomorrow it may be some other protected species. Usually, monitor lizards are hunted for meat. Their skin is used to make percussion instruments and fashion apparel. They are also used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines and its oil is used for body massage. Even its blood is consumed as it is considered an aphrodisiac.”