Even after the kingpin in an international red sander smuggling racket was arrested on Wednesday, felling of the trees continues unabated in the Edaikkal forest. In a fresh incident, two trees were found felled in the wee hours of Friday. The forest guard and officials who attempted to nab the gang involved in felling of the trees were stoned.
Based on information passed on by the Edaikkal Forest Ranger, Ulundurpet Forest Department officials filed a case and initiated investigation to nab the smugglers. Around 2.30 am on Friday, a 25-member gang felled two tree from the research institute campus. On hearing the noise, the Forest Guard who was patrolling the area alerted the Edaikkal Forest Official Murugesan.
Forest officials and guards who attempted to surround the gang where stoned and the gang escaped.
Speaking to Express, Murugesan said, “The gang split up into two group to confuse us. One group ran into the forest and the other group started stoning us. They then jumped into a moving lorry and escaped. We were unable to nab them as we are not equipped with weapons. We suspect that the lorry that the miscreants boarded might have been hired to transport the wood.”
Fortunately no one was injured in the stoning. However, we prevented the two trees from being removed from the forest. On inspecting the spot, we found a 4-foot hand saw, he added.
Sources said, so far 41 trees had been felled in the 85-hectare Forest Research Institute. Fifteen trees were felled from the spot on September 2 and 22 trees on September 15 last year. The trees were about 15 years old. The total value of the wood was estimated to be over `2 crore and could fetch over `6 crore in the open market.
The wood that was felled in September was not found yet and only 11 suspects were arrested. Officials are still clueless and unable to crack the case. In October last year, two more trees from the research centre were felled, but officials stopped smugglers from removing the trees. However, they were unable to nab the culprits.