By R. Ayyappan
The sighting of a notorious poacher, Madan, on the Bandipur side of the Wayanad-Bandipur border last week has heightened the suspicion that Kerala forests are prime targets of big cat hunters. The Karnataka and Kerala forest officials have launched a massive hunt for Madan who had managed to escape from the Karnataka authorities.
Sources said that Madan was caught by Karnataka forest officials with GPS and detailed maps of Wayanad forests. Madan had appeared in the forests near Wayanad a week after six poachers were arrested in Melghat Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had issued a high-alert.
Early last month, two people were nabbed by Kerala forest officials for hunting leopards in the forests of Sultan Bathery. Two weeks ago, a leopard which was found dead in a trap in Mananthavady had a gunshot wound.
“Wayanad deeps are difficult to monitor as it shares a border with Tamil Nadu and Karnataka,” said a top forest official posted in Wayanad. “Unfortunately, there is no inter-state coordination,” he added. There are unconfirmed reports that Madan has connections to Ranjith Singh Bhawaria, a poacher known in forest circles as Khawalya. Khawalya, it is said, has links to the poachers arrested in Melghat.
“It goes without saying that there is a strong possibility of wandering gangs of professional poachers targeting our tiger-bearing forests which, calls for due vigil and caution,” said Rajesh Goyal, additional director general of forests (Project Tiger) and NTCA member secretary.
Periyar Tiger Reserve, however, is relatively free of poachers. “The participatory forest management programme we have put in place in PTR is a fool-proof system against poacher menace,” said PTR field director K V Subramaniam. Under the system, forest dwellers, tribals and former poachers function as protectors.