BENGALURU: The hippo ivory recently seized by Karnataka foresters is probably from the savannahs of Tanzania, and date back a century. How it reached Shivamogga, and who brought it, was solved in a record time of four days by forest department sleuths.
Believed to be the first case of hippo ivory poaching, it had created a flutter earlier this week when three youngsters had been nabbed on August 24 with the contraband in their four-wheeler in Shivamogga. Forest staffers had contacted them under the guise of buyers, and caught them.
It now transpires that fortunately, no hippopotamus was poached in or around Karnataka, and that the ivory came from a house in Mapusa, Goa. The case unravelled after foresters arrested Muzzaffar Hassan, 19, a resident of Honnavar, Mohammed Danish, 22, a resident of Bhatkal, and Zahir Khan, 30, of Soraba. Zahir had been arrested earlier by the local police in a narcotics case.
Forest officials found that one of the accused was in Goa, and the other in Honnavar. The trio gave leads to a person called Anil Parashekhar (30), who led them to Vishal alias Devaraj Pawar (30), a native of Belagavi who worked in Goa. Vishal was a driver and did odd jobs for an 80-year-old woman in Mapusa. He stole the ivory from her house and brought it to Shivamogga with Parashekhar’s help.
They got in touch with the three youngsters to sell the pile of ivory for a commission, Chief Conservator of Forests, Shivamogga, R Ravishankar told TNIE. Karnataka forest officials took the help of their counterparts in Goa to nab the poachers. The octogenarian reportedly told officials that she had inherited the ivory from her father, who had retired as a forest officer in Tanzania, and settled in Goa in the 1930s, along with his trophies.
The teams are now verifying the genuineness of her claims. The officials are also sending the ivory to the Wildlife Institute of India for carbon dating, forensic verification and origin. An alert has been sounded in Maharashtra and Goa to check for more such cases. The department has also asked citizens who have such wildlife trophies to come forward with ownership records for documentation and verification.