By Belinda Wright
In the last four days there have been two important convictions in wildlife cases in Uttarakhand – both cases were WPSI assisted seizures – and one important arrest.
The first case involved the seizure of a tiger skin and a full tiger skeleton, one otter skin, a turtle carapace and a steel trap on 30 January 2009 in Fatehpur Range of Ramnagar Forest Division, which adjoins Corbett Tiger Reserve in the nothern state of Uttarakhand. The tiger was killed by a gang of professional poachers to fulfill an order from trader Narayan Chand, the younger brother of Sansar Chand, who has earlier been convicted in a Sariska poaching case. The Forest Department, who carried out the seizure and arrest, registered cases against ten people, including Narayan. During the trial, one of the accused died, and the case against him was dropped. One other accused absconded after getting bail, and the case against him is still pending. The rest of the eight accused men were convicted by the court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in Haldwani, Ms Deepali Sharma, on 7 June 2014. They were each sentenced to a maximum period of seven years imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 20,000.
The second case dates back to 18 December 2011 when three leopard skins and two bear gall bladders of a Himalayan black bear were seized by the Special Operations Group of the Uttarakhand Police on 18 December 2011. Three people were arrested with the assistance of WPSI. The trial was concluded on 10 June 2014 in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Pithoragarh, Ms Pratibha Tiwari. All three men were convicted and the court sentenced them to three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 40,000 each.
In addition, a notorious tiger criminal called Bhima Bawaria was arrested on 9 June 2014 by an enforcement team that included the Landsdowne Forest Division and officers from the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau. Bhima has been convicted in one case and is absconding from a number of other important tiger poaching cases. He was produced before the court in Kotdwar and remanded to 14 days judicial custody.