KOTTAYAM: In the wake of rampant complaints of poaching in Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) the Forest Department has constituted a special team to probe the matter. The team has been constituted after yet another complaint received by Chief Wildlife Warden Surendrakumar. A recent investigation had also exposed large scale poaching in PTR.
The team consists of Periyar West Division director C K Haby, Kottayam Divisional Forest Officer Y Vijayan and Idukki Flying Squad DFO Shanty Thomas.
Surendrakumar told Express, as per the information received, poaching has been going on here for many years. “I understand the gravity of the situation. Poaching is common in the region. We have got some leads regarding poachers and we have started investigations,” he said.
The large-scale poaching in PTR was exposed in an investigation led by Azhutha Range Forest Officer Priya T Joseph following the sighting of carcass of bison at Arjunankottai near Seethakulam in PTR West Division on April 20.
The investigation team has so far arrested 10 persons and recovered three guns and two vehicles. According to the forest officers, the poachers enter the forest from various points, especially from Koinadu near Kanayankavayal, 12 km from Kuttikkanam in Idukki.
On interrogation, forest officers received crucial information that Kallippara near Koinadu in Erumeli Range, was the base camp of the poachers. The investigators realised that the poachers had stayed in the forest for more than a week and had brought the wild meat to Kallippara to process it with the help of tribal people in the region. A follow-up investigation by the foresters at the Erumeli Range Forest office recovered some pots and spotted a shed at Kallippara.
“It is learnt poachers enter the forest at regular intervals. The carcass of the bison was recovered from Arjunankottai, which is located deep in the forest. The fact that accused in the case entered the forest from Kanayankavayal and moved till Arjunankottayai increases the gravity of the case,” said an officer.
As per the post-mortem of the carcass, the bison might have been killed around 10-12 days before it was spotted. Hence, the foresters suspect the poaching was intended to collect wild meat to sell it in the Easter market. “Apart from customers of the Easter market, some resort owners and other bigwigs are usual consumers of wild meat. The probe hit a roadblock when it reached consumers,” said an officer.