By Siba Mohanty
BHUBANESWAR: Even as Odisha contests the All India Tiger Enumeration Report which put the big cat population in the State at 28, the poaching of a sub-adult tigress in Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) has put the focus back on smuggling.
On March 25, the Karanjia Forest Division officials seized skins of a Royal Bengal Tiger and a leopard in Thakurmunda Forest Range. First, five persons were nabbed and two weeks later, two more were held in connection with the case.
The STR officials continued investigation and seized nails, teeth, whiskers and poison-tipped arrows from the house of the offenders on April 7. Skeletal remains of the tigress were also seized. The large cat is believed to be one of the three cubs which was captured by the camera trap a couple of years back.Investigation revealed that it was a Siksha Sahayak of Chirupada village, located on the foothills of Similipal, who lured the locals to kill the tiger. Govind Kisku, the teacher, had not received his remuneration for about four to five months.
“He was aware that body parts and skins of tigers have very good value. Besides, he had been contacted by some smugglers from Rairangpur about a year back in this connection. When the young tigress hunted a buffalo from a nearby village last month, he persuaded the villagers to kill the large cat and sell its skin and body parts for a good price,” Chief Wildlife Warden SS Srivastava told this paper.
Although Kisku first claimed that the tigress was snared, interrogation during the remand period revealed that it was poisoned and the body parts were kept at one of the offender’s house. The hunters are believed to be beginners in the trade.
Field Director of STR HS Bisht said the Karanjia Forest Division officials are working on the case to establish the forward links. “Though we have already found out the backward linkages, it is necessary to know where the body parts were supposed to be smuggled to,” he said.
While mobile phone call details of the accused are being analysed to establish fresh leads in the case, the poaching has brought to fore the fact about the ineffectiveness of the Special Tiger Task Force which is deployed at STR.
Tiger poaching invites a strict protocol laid down by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) under which an independent panel has to be formed to probe each and every case. Every tiger death is first treated as poaching and must also be reported to the national body which maintains a database, although this case is yet to be reflected on its website. The Chief Wildlife Warden said all the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of NTCA have been met.
STR Field Director Bisht said the samples have been sent to Wildlife Institute of India (WII) for examination while the body parts and remnants have been incinerated as per the SOPs.