By Krishnendu Bandyopadhyay
KOLKATA: Don't go by Amitabha Pal's looks. This ever-smiling man may appear simple and easy-going, but his name strikes terror among poachers. Amitabha is not only relentless in keeping poachers at bay as far as his beat in the eastern range of Jaldapara is concerned; his uncanny knack for picking up a trail of poachers has made him a much-sought-after person in the national park.
Before Amitabha was posted as a beat officer at Jaldapara National Park in 2006, there were some organized gangs of poachers who often killed bison, deer and various kinds of birds. "We managed to prosecute most of the gangs. We pursued poaching cases painstakingly during the trial period in the courts. After a couple of convictions, the message spread far and wide that I am unsparing. But my role is limited. We work as a team where each and every person plays his respective role to curb poaching," he says.
Amitabha, 52, also from North Bengal, knows the forest like the back of his palm. "I am fortunate to have a good rapport with people living around the forest areas. They are the biggest source of knowledge about any legal or illegal entry by humans into the forest. But the problem begins when a section of forest villagers or those in the forest fringes indulge in poaching. They do it mostly for food," said Amitabha.
A few years back, Amitabha managed to catch four local villagers who had killed a deer for a feast. "On a tip-off, we caught the person. After a long search, we managed to seize the cooked meat of the deer. That was important, as it became clenching evidence and helped convict the four. But the conviction also had a much bigger impact across Jaldapara," Amitabha says. Since then, no local has dared to kill any wild animal.
Pal attributes much of his success both to seniors and juniors. "Anti-poaching operations are always fairly risky, considering the superior firepower of new-age poachers. But I found unconditional encouragements from my seniors and ready helping hands and courage from the juniors. These factors have made my task of tracking and nabbing poachers much easier," he adds.