By Jayan Menon
Thiruvananthapuram: More than 20 wild elephants have been hunted down for their tusks in the forests of Kerala in the last 10 months, according to a former Forest Department watcher who claims to have accompanied the poachers as a cook.
Kalarikudiyil Kunjumon (62) went to a Forest Department office and informed the officials about a gang that camped inside the Vazhachal Forest Division for days to poach elephants. The Forest officials, however, responded by arresting Kunjumon for shooting a young tusker and ignoring the other poaching incidents.
Though Kunjumon handed over the details of the gang, including the mobile numbers of the poachers, the Forest Department officials have not conducted any investigation about the poachers or those who bought ivory from them.
The gang hunted elephants in Kollathirimedu, Vazhachal, Athirappalli, Kodanad Erumukham, Thundathil Vilangupara and Vathakkara areas inside the Vazhachal Forest Division.
Kunjumon first went to the Karimbali Forest Station to give his statement but the officials played down the information and suggested that Kunjumon was making up things. He then went to the Edamalayar Forest Station.
The officials conducted a preliminary investigation and recovered an elephant carcass from the spot Kunjumon had led them to. They filed a case and made the informant an accused in the case.
Kunjumon said one of the poachers shot the young tusker as they were returning after the real hunt. The gang returned after a month to collect the tusks, he said. The poachers’ gang had paid him Rs 57,000 for accompanying them into the forest five times since September last year.
The ivory was sold to a native in Thiruvananthapuram, Kunjumon told the Forest Department officials. He also gave them the mobile numbers of seven poachers but the cases were never pursued.
He said the gang was involved in poaching inside forests in Munnar as well as in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka but he had not accompanied them there.
Kunjumon has been remanded for 18 days.
If his allegations turn out to be true, this would be the largest elephant poaching operation since 1990 when Madurai Johny and gang shot down about 50 elephants in the Vazhachal and Parambikulam divisions.