By S. Harpal Singh
In Adilabad, poachers are immune to laws as they do not serve jail term even after found guilty
“When a man kills a tiger, he calls it a sport. When a tiger kills a man, people call it ferocity. The distinction between crime and justice is no greater.” In a way, this paradox highlighted by George Bernard Shaw exists in the realm of wildlife in Adilabad where poachers are moving with immunity and impunity.
‘Deterrence’ as an effective method of preventing poaching and protecting wildlife, at least in cases where the intention of the accused is to kill, is conspicuously absent in the efforts being made by authorities in that regard. A couple of hundred wildlife cases have been booked in the last 15 years, but none has resulted in jail term to poachers, mainly because of lack of grasp of relevant law and corruption.
With its extravagant richness in biodiversity, Adilabad was always an El Dorado for hunters, poachers and traders in wildlife products. If it was famous as a ‘shikargah’ or hunting ground for the Nawabs and other royalty during the Nizam’s rule, it attracts poachers and traders in wildlife meat and products at present.
The Tanur hunting incident of October 21 in the district, in which no less than 13 hunters from Hyderabad felled a pregnant nilgai, has served as an eye-opener to everyone concerned. The ‘shikaris’ from the capital city, who used deadly weapons to kill the helpless animal, have duly been booked by the Forest Department.
“We have undertaken a special drive to chargesheet offenders in wildlife cases and increased surveillance with a view to curbing poaching,” claims Adilabad Chief Conservator of Forests T.P. Thimma Reddy. The sudden increase in poaching cases in the district, seizures and arrests buttress his claim.
However, if the trend is not reversed in the special drive, offenders are likely to go scot free by paying ‘fine’ money. “A merciless approach towards wildlife offenders within the ambit of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972 is required to control poaching,” opines Imran Siddiqui of the Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society, a Hyderabad-based NGO active in Adilabad.
There are instances like the poacher, held responsible for killing a tiger in Bejjur, was let off after being fined Rs. 12,000. Ideally, he and other poachers should have been imprisoned for killing an animal which is included in Schedule I of the WPA, 1972.