By Amit S. Upadhye
Bengaluru: A Forest Offence Case was booked against four officials for shooting down a tusker inside the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve on Thursday midnight. The incident occurred when the four officials were patrolling along the forest border in a jeep. The accused officials claimed that had shot the tusker in order to save one of their colleagues, who had fallen off the vehicle.
But the conservationists have raised doubts about the claim made by forest department officials and various theories are doing rounds. Mr R Gokul, Director of Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, had said on Friday that forest guard Vinu had shot the elephant to save his college Shrinivas, who had fallen from the jeep.
But on Saturday it was learnt that the person who shot the elephant was Nanjunda, a temporary forest watcher. However, as the temporary watcher was not authorized to carry a weapon, the forest officials had named a permanent guard. Now the conservationists are doubting the whole story of guard falling from the jeep. They believe that the person who fell from the jeep will need more time to get into the jeep than a person loading the gun and shooting the elephant. Rumors were also doing the rounds that an elephant had charged at the forest team during patrolling and the person sitting on back seat of the vehicle opened fire killing the elephant.
However, the fact that no senior IFS official was present during the post-mortem of the elephant, has raised many questions. Three years ago, the forest department had issued an order to videograph the entire post-mortem of Schedule I animals such as tigers, leopards, sloth bears and elephants. But none of these orders were followed in this particular case.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Vinay Luthra denied any foul play. Mr Gokul also clarified that no ‘self interest’ was involved in the shooting. “The elephant was shot at point blank range and it fell on the road itself,” Mr Gokul added.