Odisha STF exhumes two jumbo carcasses; forest department buries head in sand
Negligence of duty apart, what is crystal clear in both the cases is officials of the Forest department were complicit in disappearance of evidence of jumbo deaths.
Published: 04th June 2022 08:21 AM | Last Updated: 04th June 2022 08:21 AM | A+A A-
BHUBANESWAR: Two elephant carcasses have been exhumed in as many days from Athagarh Forest division. Yet the Wildlife Wing of Forest department seems unaffected by the magnitude of complicity of its own people.
On Thursday, the Special Task Force (STF) of Crime Branch exhumed the remains a second elephant. The Forest department was, all the while, silent about the killing and burial of the two jumbos in two separate places in Baramba range.
After exhuming skeletal remains of a male elephant with its tusks missing near Kharada village on the foothills of Chandragiri hills on Thursday, the STF team recovered remains of a female in a decomposed state from a private land near Jenapala village the next day.
Like the male, the female elephant is also suspected to have been buried after being killed. Both the deaths are recent, going by the stages of decomposition, official sources said.
Negligence of duty apart, what is crystal clear in both the cases is officials of the Forest department were complicit in disappearance of evidence of jumbo deaths. The elephants were poached, their death was natural or accidental is yet to be ascertained though this is the third such case in four months.
Experts familiar with wildlife laws say forest officials indulging in suppression of such deaths should be dealt as per section 201 of the IPC for causing disappearance of evidence or giving false information which invites imprisonment up to three years.
However, the Forest department is happy to place a few staff under temporary suspension. Interestingly, in Baramba range, an officer who had faced jail term in the past is posted. PCCF Wildlife Shashi Paul said disciplinary action is being taken against officials found guilty in these cases. "The two cases from Athagarh will also be probed and appropriate action initiated against those found guilty," he added.
However, activists are not enthused by the knee-jerk reaction of the Forest department in such grave instances which are criminal in nature. Honorary Wildlife Warden of Khurda Subhendu Mallik, who accompanied STF during the recovery of the elephant carcasses, wondered why the Forest department was silent on taking action against its own staff and arresting them in such cases.
"This is a clear case of suppression of facts as burying a dead elephant in open land cannot be possible without knowledge or help of forest staff or officials. The Crime branch should investigate the matter and take appropriate action," he said.
Wildlife activists said, the Forest department is not only going soft on its ground staff but also being lenient on the senior officers of the division.
"How can accountability not be fixed on the senior officers if elephant after elephant are being buried in plain sight. This is exactly why corruption is being encouraged," said the activist. Athagarh DFO Sudarsan Gopinath Jadav said in both the cases, action will be taken on the basis of investigation.