Bengaluru: Poaching is alive and thriving in Karnataka.
According to the Central Investigation Department (CID), Forest Cell, in 2014, 790 cases of poaching were registered and 830 people were arrested. In 2015, 782 cases were booked and 829 persons arrested. In 2016, the department booked 654 cases and the CID forest cell arrested 656 persons for poaching and trading in skin, animals, tusks and others.
Balrame Gowda, Deputy Superintendent of Police, CID, Forest Cell, says poachers are extremely intelligent and aware of the law. "The wildlife mafia uses the skills and network of local tribes and small time poachers," says Gowda. "The demand for leopard skin, tiger skin, deer skin and elephant tusk is more in the international market. Hence, these animals are the primary target of poachers."
Pangolin is also in demand. The animal's skin is sold and measured in kilos. "One kilo of its skin costs Rs 25 lakh," says the DySP, adding that the department has recovered wildlife products worth RS20.5 crores in the last three years.
The local tribes, who are well aware of the forest and know animal movements, are employed to hunt animals. After the animal is killed, the meat is buried and the pelt is hidden. Based on the direction of the team leader, the skin or tusk is brought out. "We have activated our network in these areas. We pose as buyers and arrest them red-handed," says Gowda.
But what is worrying officials is that well-educated people are also entering the illegal trade. Several techies have been caught by officials of the forest cell. "In the last few months, we arrested an Airtel engineer in HSR Layout, but the police could not arrest the mastermind as he was operating from Tamil Nadu," says Inspector Pramod. "Last month, a techie-cum-photographer was arrested and last week a BE graduate was arrested. A few of them also are involved in selling animals such as fox, parakeets, monitor lizard and snakes."
The police's task is getting harder as poachers are getting smarter. They keep switching the places before striking the deal and also ask buyers to pay money in advance or deposit it in bank accounts.
"In one case, the poacher demanded we show him Rs40 lakh cash and only then he would arrange for the skin. Since we could not arrange, we had to keep pestering him to show the animal skin. To arrest such persons red-handed, it may take a week to a month's time as they will be always on the move," says Pramod.
The forests of Kodagu, Mysuru, Chamrajanagar, Chikkamagalauru, Hassan, Belagavi, Hubli- Dharwad, Shivamogga, Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada all favoured by poachers.