Alarmed by the brazenness of the hunters, the Wildlife Wing has requested the State Government for a Crime Branch probe into the elephant poachings in Sambalpur district.
In the last ten days, three elephants were killed in Bamra and Sambalpur Forest Divisions. Though the Sambalpur FD arrested two persons and seized huge volumes of ammunition, the alacrity of poachers has prompted the Wildlife Wing to seek a probe by Crime Branch to break into what it believes is a full-fledged racket.
Chief Wildlife Warden, SS Srivastava told this paper on Saturday that a formal request has been made to the State Government for CB investigation into all the three cases of poaching.
Sources in the Wildlife Wing said there is a strong possibility that a racket is operating behind the string of poachings and seizures are strong evidence of it. Since the intelligence network of the Wildlife Wing is limited and its Crime Control Cell has been dormant, it needs help from other agencies to penetrate into the ring of smugglers and poachers.
Given the past record of Crime Branch, its expertise could come handy in cracking the poaching racket. The CB was also assigned investigation into seven cases of poachings that took place in 2010-11-12.
Of the seven, two poachings took place in Similipal, another two were reported from Narasinghpur while one each were recorded at Kuldiha, Satkosia and Athagarh wildlife divisions.
The Crime Branch submitted chargesheets in four cases in which at least 30 persons were arrested. Three cases are pending investigation because the investigating agency is awaiting forensic reports from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
However, the new cases in Sambalpur could challenge the investigating agency given the complexity of their nature. Since all these killings have been reported in Left Wing Extremist (LWE) affected regions, links of the poachers with Maoists can not be ruled out.
International wildlife trade experts have reasons to believe that extremists groups have been encouraging poaching and smuggling of wildlife, which have a huge illegal market, so that they could fund their arms and ammunition.
Sources in the Sambalpur Forest Division acknowledge that the forest field staff have received open threats from the Maoists not to venture into the deeper pockets which also happen to be elephant habits and corridors. Between April and January, at least seven instances of elephant poachings have been recorded in the State, three of them are from Sambalpur district.
Besides Crime Branch, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau under Ministry of Environment and Forests is likely to step into the investigation.