THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government has decided to seek the help of national Wildlife Crime Control Bureau for a comprehensive probe into the elephant poaching reported in the state forests recently.
As poaching is suspected to have connection with international ivory trade mafia, the government would seek support of WCCB for a comprehensive probe, Forest Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan told state assembly Wednesday.
"We will seek the help of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau in the investigation of the poaching case. The agency has direct contact with CBI and IB which will be helpful in the probe," he said in a reply to a submission raised by V S Sunil Kumar (CPI-M).
As many as 20 persons have been arrested and four forest officials were suspended for dereliction of duty in connection with the case, the minister said.
Raids and combing operations were carried out across the state to collect evidence regarding the incident.
Taking up the issue as a submission, Sunil Kumar said at least 27 tuskers were killed for ivory in last 12 months in the state forests. Besides this, another 30 elephants have died in mysterious circumstances.
Criticizing the government for taking the issue "very lightly", he said the recent death of Aikkaramattom Vasu, an accused in the poaching case who was suspected to have shot down tuskers on behalf of the ivory trading mafia, might not be a suicide but murder.
"Though police said his death was a suicide, we suspect that it is murder. The real forces behind the poaching may have killed him to destroy evidence. It might be a Vyapam model murder to destroy evidence," the legislator said.
Vasu's body was found hanging in a pineapple forest at Sindhudurga in Maharashtra.
He also alleged that a section of forest officials "are hand-in-glove" with poachers and ivory traders.
The carcasses of five elephants with their tusks removed were found in Malayatoor forest in the state earlier this month.