By Anant Zanane
In the dense sal forests on the periphery of the Jim Corbett National Park, two tigers which had strayed beyond the boundaries were trapped, killed and then skinned.
The 11 men who poached them were arrested on Sunday by Uttar Pradesh's special task force.
They were stopped at two, but this gang had plans to kill many big cats, as the combing operations lead to the discovery of several tiger traps along the periphery of the park, considered a safe zone for the animal.
Rakesh Sinha, the district Superintendent of police for Bijnor, the district of the neighbouring state of UP where these arrests were made, says that there was specific intelligence about a group of poachers active in the area. He admits that "with the help of forest officials we were able to identify the gang. Earlier they had killed a tiger in the district of Pilibhit. They were arrested but were granted bail. They resumed poaching."
As Umar, one of the arrested poachers, says, there was nothing unconventional or high tech about their ways of hunting. "We would set traps and nets, then use knives to kill and skin them."
And each tiger skin would fetch them more than Rs. 5 lakhs.
Government and forest officials claim to be on a conservation overdrive. But their response to poaching is slow and tardy. Surendar Singh, the ranger of the park, was struggling with a volley of questions about the deaths of the tigers during his absence. His only defence was ignorance. "I was away, and was unaware" he said.
In 2013, Corbett has lost eight big cats to poaching. It has been two years that the Uttarakhand cabinet ordered the creation of the tiger protection force. But so far the force is just a paper tiger. So the animal and the effort to protect it continue to suffer. Video.