By Yogesh Naik
Three tiger poachers were convicted on Wednesday, the first time such convictions have been obtained in Maharashtra. State forest secretary Praveen Pardeshi said it was also the first time tiger poachers in the state were convicted on the basis of DNA evidence.
Madhusingh Rathod, Chintaram Rathod and Vinod Pawar were sentenced to five years each by chief judicial magistrate Jayant Raje of Achalpur in Amravati. With the intended approver Aneesh Rathod turning hostile, the court has asked the state forest department to file a separate chargesheet against him.
"We matched DNA samples from the tiger's flesh and the poachers' hands. CBI joint director (west) Keshav Kumar was overseeing our investigations," said Pardeshi.
"On March 4, 2013 we received information that tiger poaching was on in Dhakna range, core zone of the Melghat tiger reserve in Amravati," said honorary wildlife warden of Amravati, Vishal Bansod. "When we reached the spot, we found some decomposed flesh and blood. We collected the samples and sent them for forensic analyses. It appeared that the poaching had taken place in December 2012."
Within two days, forest officers detained seven people. "Samples of tiger flesh and the nails of the accused were sent to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology. Some of the nails matched," said Pardeshi.
Trader Ranjit Bhatia from Vishakhapatnama was also nabbed and is under trial. Three persons who allegedly played supporting roles were acquitted.
In another case, camera traps were laid to track wildlife in the Tillari forests of Sindhudurg district. The cameras captured six poachers with guns and sambar meat. They have been arrested.