NAGPUR: The first official statement on tiger poaching issued by the forest department on July 19, exactly 43 days after two organized poachers Mamru and Chika were arrested, seems to an exercise in washing hands off the poaching problem rather than trying to tackle it head on.
The statement by chief conservator of forests (CCF) for Nagpur Circle SH Patil, which was approved by additional principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) SS Mishra, comes in the wake TOI’s (Times Of India) expose of call detail report of tiger skin trader from Haryana Sarju Bagdi on July 20. Sarju procured tiger skins right under the nose of forest officials.
Tiger poaching in India
It was TOI which had first exposed the poaching case on June 10, but the department never came clear on the issue. First, it was about sale of five tiger skin, which included one from Tumsar and another from Melghat, bought by Sarju from Aamdi Fata near Ramtek. Even the mystery behind five tiger skins has not been solved yet.
Subsequent interrogation of poachers revealed that Sarju had procured six more tiger skins from Bhandarbodi near Ramtek in the first week of April. The total tiger skins Sarju bought from various gangs was 11.
Patil has clarified that arrested poachers never admitted about the latter six skins in their confession. Instead of probing the serious issue in toto, the forest officials are trying to downplay it.
Investigating officials from Melghat and Nagpur told TOI that the fact of six tiger skins procured in April first week was revealed by poachers when they were quizzed in Melghat on June 9, but the statement was not recorded for reasons best known to forest officials.
The six skins included one tiger each from Katangi in MP and another from Melghat. Four were suspected to be from other places, perhaps from PAs near Nagpur, and hence officials buried the fact.
However, another fact, which the department is hiding, is that is that when Mamru and Chika were arrested by police and forest officials on June 6 night, Chika was in police custody while Mamru was in forest custody at Seminary Hills. “It might quite be possible that Mamru must have told many facts to the officials, also about the six skins here,” feel officials. But why were statements at Seminary Hills not recorded?
Confession statement of Mamru, a copy of which is with TOI, taken on June 17, itself exposes forest department’s failure to nail the poachers and their lack of intelligence. Mamru has admitted that his gang stayed in Bhandarbodi. The CDR of Sarju also reveals he went there on April 3. He had also stayed in Mahadula during that period.
What were they doing in Bhandarbodi? Why did Sarju visit there? Why did forest officials take Chika and Mamru to Bhandarbodi for probe? These are some of the questions that remain unanswered.
Patil has said that Mamru and Chika were nabbed based on the CDR of poachers involved in Dhakna (Melghat) tiger poaching case on March 4. Actually, police nabbed the culprits on June 6. If officials were working on CDR since March 4, what did they do for three months? Why could not they nab Sarju when he was here from March 30 till April 6 and then again after May 26?
Another glaring fact is that Mamru admitted his gang killed Ghatang (Melghat) tiger in second week of May. If forest officials were working on CDR since March, why did they fail to nab the culprits for over 70 days?
The poachers revealed names of 16 gang members involved in tiger poaching here but none of them has been arrested yet. Two poachers Yarlen and Barsul were handed over by the MP officials and others were arrested by Melghat officials.
Instead of criticizing the media, if forest department is really serious about poaching, why the matter is not being handed over to the CBI? Even forest minister Patangrao Kadam has asked the officials to go ahead with CBI probe. Not to mention that notorious tiger poacher Sansarchand is set to be released.
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