Odisha is fast turning into a graveyard for jumbos with poachers having a free run. The killing of three elephants in Sambalpur in last 10 days has brought to focus the alacrity with which smuggling syndicates are targeting the jumbo habitats of the State even as the Odisha Government seems to be blissfully oblivious to the dangerous trend.
Poachers are adopting new techniques, bringing in advanced arms and ammunition to raid the elephant territories. Using iPhone for GPS support, customising vehicles and even ammunition, the syndicates have taken the forest sleuths by complete surprise.
While the poachers are entrenched in the deep forest pockets, mostly Left Wing Extremist (LEW) strangleholds, they have been receiving logistic support from another channel.
After the three back-to-back poaching in Jamankira and Dhama forest ranges in last 10 days, the Sambalpur South Forest Division cracked down and arrested two persons - Bhagwan Singh and Gupte Dharwa. Singh hailed from Ranchi while Dharwa is a local. The duo, forest officials suspect, was logistics suppliers for the poachers moving in the forests. The Jeep seized from their possession had three step-ins and at least four fuel tanks for carrying reserves in the jungle terrain. There were several pockets in the vehicle to carry essential articles.
The vehicle was customised in such a fashion that poachers could shoot in any direction sitting inside the Jeep. There were cushioned points where fire-arms could be placed to facilitate shooting. The forest sleuths also seized at least huge volumes of .303 mm, .22 mm bullets and 12 bore cartridges.
“The .303 mm bullets were cross-cut at the tip using Swiss knives so that it could cause grave damage to large animals,” Sambalpur Divisional Forest Officer Santosh Joshi said. The accused were also using iPhone for GPS support in the forest areas so that they could track the elephant pockets accurately. Search lights, pickaxes and a host of other equipment which would come handy for removing the tusks were also found.
While the incident has brought to fore the swift operation that these syndicates are running, it has also revealed how local poachers are working in tandem with the smugglers. Of six fire-arm licenses that were seized, two turned out to be fake while the rest four - which had expired - were issued in the name of residents of Balangir district.
Surprisingly, when the Sambalpur Forest Division sought remand of the two persons to interrogate them about the expanse of the poaching racket, a local court rejected the plea. It is now planning to appeal in a higher court.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) SS Srivastava has rushed to Dhama and Jamankira ranges to take stock of the situation.