Tiger poachers’ bid foiled, arrested in Tamil Nadu

HM Aravind, TNN | Jul 7, 2012

MYSORE: For some time now, the forest department was continuously watching the movement of outsiders on the fringes of the BRT wildlife sanctuary bordering Tamil Nadu.

The Hindi-speaking outsiders were under the scanner following alerts that a gang could be trying to strike in the tiger reserve. The continuous efforts have paid off as the forest department busted a team of inter-state poachers that was active in the Karnataka. Luckily, the team has been nabbed before any big cat has fallen prey to them.

What’s alarming is that the gang has a past record: They are wanted in wildlife crimes in other states and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WLCCB) is now scanning the accused. At least one of the six arrested is facing a wildlife offence at Arunachal Pradesh, sources told The Sunday Times of India.

It is not clear yet whether they had killed any tigers in India, they stated. “There were regular alerts and we took them seriously beefing up security at the field level. We nabbed them at Gundal forests,” they added.

Though the security was put on alert, the gang had managed to infiltrate inside the tiger reserve spread over 539.52 square kilometers bordering TN. This comes barely four weeks after a six months old tiger cub was poached in the area. But the poachers were localities who were arrested on June 13. The gang is busted based on alerts from National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). The operation was assisted by the Chennai-based WLCCB.

According to BRT tiger reserve director Vijay Mohan Raj, the inter-state poachers hail from Haryana and were sent to Karnataka to poach tigers. All the arrested are from Panchkula district. The arrested are Jagadeesh (30), Jaler Singh (45), Lakumichand (26), Rothas (20), Pappu (30) and Bimla Devi (30). The accused during questioning have revealed that they have been specifically sent by Balcu and Periya of Haryana, who are suspected to be the gang’s kingpins, with specific instructions and route map on how to reach BRT sanctuary, the conservator of forests, said. They had made a temporary camp outside the tiger reserve along with other nomadic families selling plastic flowers. They operated from the forest fringe.

They have revealed that they were inside the jungle for 6 days and had carried out reconnaissance to familiarize themselves with the terrain and movement of tigers, the officials stated. Gundal forest from where they were picked up is on the periphery of the tiger reserve in Chamarajnagar district.

They camped in a narrow cave deep inside the valley to avoid detection by the patrolling staff. The gang had setup three jaw traps, which they call ‘Khadka’ at different locations in the forest. The forest officials took them to the spots where the jaw traps were active and disarmed them.

That the gang is professional was revealed by their modus-operandi: The jaw traps were set and made active only during the night hours. During morning hours, the team would enter the forested area and dismantled them and keep them hidden at a nearby place for subsequent use in the evening. If a tiger gets trapped in the jaw trap, they planned to kill it. Each of the gang members are expert trackers and possess skills like setting up of traps, de-skinning and curing of the skin. The protected areas having tiger population are specifically targeted by the gang, which is suspected to be part of national and possibly the international network, Vijay Mohan Raj said.