By Vivek Deshpande
The Maharashtra government has issued a notification asking the Central Bureau of Investigation to take over probe in the Melghat tiger poaching case from the forest department. As many as 19 suspects have been arrested since March in connection with the case that is already in court.
Of the 19 accused, five are Melghat locals and 14 belonging to a community in Madhya Pradesh that traditionally indulges in poaching.
This gang of poachers from MP has admitted to killing at least two tigers in Melghat and is learnt to have told investigators that other poachers from their community might have killed more tigers in Maharashtra.
"There are many aspects and angles that an agency like CBI is better equipped to investigate. That's why we are handing over the case to it," said Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) S W H Naqvi.
Investigations have revealed that 11 tiger skins were traded by the poachers in the last few months.
Asked if the poachers indicated that their accomplices have killed more tigers elsewhere in Maharashtra, Naqvi said: "Yes, there are indications that some more incidents (of poaching) have been carried out by them in the state." Sources said at least three more tigers were killed in the Melghat landscape over the last one year.
The police are now on the lookout for one Sarju from Haryana who is believed to have purchased all the 11 tiger skins.