By K. Shiva Kumar
MYSORE: For forest officials and villagers who live around the Male Madeshwara Hills region, it’s as if the dreaded Veerappan has come back to life. For, a violent poacher has been wreaking havoc in the area, killing elephants, attacking forest staff and intimidating villagers.
The poacher, Saravanan, a native of Karyekadu in Salem district, has been active in the area for the past year. He has 17 cases against him in Tamil Nadu. Due to his violent ways and activities, villagers have begun referring to him as Veerappan, who reigned in the region for decades. With a rise in demand for felt and exotic meat, Saravanan is doing business clandestinely in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, sources said.
He started out as a small-time poacher and earned notoriety by targeting officials and villagers who opposed his illegal activities. He often appears in the jungle and warns officials against pursuing him.
On one occasion, forest staff at the Mulupanjala anti-poaching training camp fled the spot overnight and refused to return after Saravanan’s gang warned them of dire consequences. The gang has, at times, also opened fire on forest personnel on night patrol. Cartridges, gun powder and ammunition have been found in the area confirming the presence of the poachers. The Forest Department has pressed into service its Tiger Task Force assisted by forest watchers and guards to comb the Palar region for the next one month.
“We will summon more forces if necessary,” said Ajay Mishra, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Karnataka. He may seek the cooperation of Tamil Nadu officials to nab Saravanan and his gang.
Senior officials, pleading anonymity, said the gang had killed five elephants. The M M Hills police have also registered a case against Saravanan for attacking a woman with a sickle and chopping her hand off. The Forest Department has registered three FIRs.
Forest watchers said the gang is familiar with the terrain and has the expertise to pull off organised crimes. Assistant Conservator of Forests Vasudeva Murthy said the forest intelligence wing has deputed more men to gather information about Saravanan. Admitting that the poacher has become a challenge to the authorities, he said they were trying to gather more information.
The original Veerappan defied the state governments of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and Indian Border security paramilitary forces for many years and even maintained a small army, which at one point numbered hundreds.