BENGALURU: The rampant use of illegal and licensed weapons for hunting wildlife has become a major headache for both the police and the forest department in the Malnad region. Even as seizures and arrests continue in areas around national parks and sanctuaries, 8-10 cases have been registered by the police in Chikkamagaluru district alone and illegal arms recovered from hunters.
In a recent incident, the Kudremukh police stumbled upon a person with firearms which was being used for wildlife hunting. However, the offender managed to escape. Lakshman, son of Alagaiah, was chased by the police when he was found hunting near S K Meglan Koonekudge village. The police team seized a muzzle-loader gun and also recovered other materials used for hunting. A case was registered at Kudremukh police station under the Indian Arms Act.
According to police sources, the use of illegal arms for hunting is widespread in the Western Ghat districts. This is a sensitive district as, in the past decade, as many as 13-15 Naxals have surrendered and laid down arms before the Chikkamagaluru district police. A police official said, “We need to recover such country-made illegal arms and ammunition. The easy availability of such guns has not only increased wildlife hunting, but also given a fillip to criminal activity.”
The Kudremukh National Park authorities are having a tough time dealing with such illegal activities in the surrounding areas. According to G Veeresh, Chikkamagaluru honorary wildlife warden, in the Western Ghat-bound Malnad areas, such locally made muzzle-loading guns are specially used for wildlife hunting. “They use traditional methods for making them — gun powder, metal balls, blades, wires, nails, etc. Under the Indian Arms Act, this is illegal and authorities should seize all illegal and unlicensed firearms.”
Local activists further add that these easily available cheap guns are a boon for hunters and hunting groups from Bengaluru, Mangaluru, Hyderabad, etc., and hence, there is an urgent need for the Forest Department to hire and deploy more frontline forest staff for protection of Kudremukh National Park.
Venkatesh, an ex-army commander, pointed out that the most commonly used firearm in the southern states and the North-East is the muzzle-loader. They are made of a galvanized iron pipes or sometimes even made out of the steering rods of vehicles like jeeps. As far as ammunition is concerned, sometimes, roughly made lead balls are used with a heavy coat of gunpowder, while other hunters use six-inch bits of iron rod projectiles.