By Bosky Khanna
Authorities trying to nab them; Wildlife Protection Act to be invoked
Photographs of a group of six young men carrying weapons inside the forest and holding wild animals have sent the forest department officials into a tizzy.
Those in the photographs posing with wild animals and weapons like sten gun and single barrel bridge loader, cooked wildlife meat and holding wild animals like wild black naped hare which is protected under Wildlife Protection Act (WPA)- 1972 Schedule 4, went viral on social media. The sleuths of Karnataka Forest Department, CID forest officials are now trying to track these men and details of their weapons.
Speaking to Deccan Herald on Wednesday, Principal Chief Wildlife Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Vinay Lutra said: This is the Nilgiri biosphere of Karnataka, but the exact location in the biosphere has to be identified. We will share these details with Wildlife Crime Bureau and police too. Entering forests with weapons without permission is an offence, holding wildlife in your hands is also an offence.
Under WPA, onus is on the accused to prove his innocence. Posting photographs taken in forests is not an offence, but when it is done without permission, it is illegal and becomes prime evidence in such cases. We will also verify whether the men in khaki are forest officials or not.”
A ministry of environment and forests official explained that in such cases of entering national parks and sanctuaries, the accused will be booked under Section 9 of WPA that amounts to hunting, Section 27- restriction of entry into forests, Section 26 of Karnataka Forest Act- offence of trespassing forest area and Section 31 of WPA- entering with weapons.
Adding to this, Deputy Superintendent of Police, CID Forest Cell, Shamanna said: “We are going through the Facebook page details. Search for the men and weapon details has also started. “This group freely moving inside a forest area with dogs, brandishing weapons and hunting animals exposes serious gaps in the protection mechanism.
They must be immediately tracked and cases booked under WPA and Arms Act. The investigation must also focus on where and how many times such illegal intrusions have happened,” said Praveen Bhargav, Trustee, Wildlife First.
Former chief of CID Forest Cell, KSN Chikkerur, a retired IPS officer, observed that these people must be brought to book. Even though on sight they look like first time entrants and offenders, strict note should be taken.