By Meera Bhardwaj
BENGALURU: One more poaching incident rocked the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. In the early hours of Saturday, at Chingalwadi Reserve in Sangam Wildlife Range, a forest watcher was injured when he was fired upon by a gang of poachers, demonstrating the hostile environment in which the forest staff are working. Over the years, the sanctuary has become notorious for wildlife crimes. Bearing the brunt of repeated attacks by poachers, the sanctuary has seen a protective mechanism in place. However, eternal vigilance is needed to save this reserve from marauding and organized gangs from the surrounding areas.
Speaking to Express, Vasant Reddy, Deputy Conservator of Forest, Cauvery Wildlife Division, said a 22-year-old forest watcher, Siddaraj Naik, was injured when their staff intercepted a poaching gang comprising 6-7 people who fired upon the staffers. “Siddaraj is undergoing treatment at Victoria Hospital and is presently out of danger. A cache of country-made weapons, ammunition, mobile phones with Karnataka SIM cards, caps with head torches were recovered from the area as the gang fled in the melee,” the DCF added.
The Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, straddling the three districts of Ramanagaram, Chamarajnagar and Mandya, has witnessed almost 50 to 60 cases of poaching in the last two-and-a-half years. The DCF said, “Most of them are meat poachers from the nearby Kanakapura taluk and other areas as they hunt Chital and Sambar for their meat and skin. Most of them carry country-made weapons and ammunition and hide them in farm houses, fields or bury them in the soil. Much of these arms have been recovered. We have arrested many people and the cases are going on in court,” he said.
“Our protective measures have increased because of the vastness of the area. We have 30 anti-poaching camps, weapons, increased staff, night patrols, foot and vehicle patrolling,” he added.
“To wean away local people from poaching, we have been organising awareness camps. We recently organised nature education camps in Gopinatham and Bheemeshwari and in 70 schools and colleges,” he said.
Praveen Bhargava, from Wildlife First, a conservation advocacy organisation, who visited the sanctuary recently, added that protective mechanisms are in place here as hunters and poachers are being regularly challenged by the forest staff. Otherwise the gangs would have had a free run, he said.
“A thorough investigation is necessary as these poachers with weapons and searchlights may be backed by a larger gang. Every park including the better-protected ones are under attack. Therefore, eternal vigilance is necessary,” he said.