Alert Forest Department personnel thwarted the attempt of red sander smugglers in Odugathur forest area during the small hours of Sunday.
Acting on a tip-off, Divisional Forest Officer of Vellore H Raja Mohan engaged a total of 20 foresters to curb the smugglers. The forest personnel split into four groups and patrolled the reserve forest area in and around Odugathur, Amirithi and the adjoining forest areas from Saturday night.
“We received the information around 8 pm on Saturday from a few of the villagers living on the fringes of the forest in Odugathur. The villagers contacted us over the phone and informed us that they (smugglers) had come from the tribal villages in Jawadhu Hills. They had inquired the villagers about the presence of forest guards and watchers before cutting the trees,” said a forest official.
Sensing the movement of forest staff, the gang remained deep in the woods till around 4 am. “One of our teams heard the noise of a tree being axed near Agaramcheri around 4 am. They rushed to the spot and found three red sander trees, around 25 years old, chopped down. But the gang fled. We suspect that a group of 20 to 30 people was involved. We’ve enough clues,” said the official.
The officials have given the information about a few of the smugglers and the police would catch them soon. “We got timely information from the villagers. We acted swiftly and engaged the maximum number of foresters to comb the forests having red sanders. Our efforts paid off or else 10 trees would have been felled.”