2017 begins with multiple poaching and forest crimes, several nabbed

New Delhi, Jan 2 (IANS) As 2017 began, wildlife crime accelearated with multiple cases of poaching and seizures of protected and vulnerable species, including hundreds of turtles in West Bengal and sambars in Karnataka.

In a major catch, 1,625 Indian softshell turtles were seized from Burdwan district in West Bengal by the state police and four people were arrested. The seizures were done late on January 1 night and the animals along with those arrested were handed over the state forest department.

“This is the second such seisure of Indian Softshell Turtles in the state. On December 29, 1,850 tutles were seized in the same district,” Sujit Kumar Das, ADFO Burdwan Forest Division told IANS.

Both animals and poachers arrested on the two days prima facie belonged to the state of Uttar Pradesh and the consignment was destined to Basirhat in North 24 Parganas District.

“Out of 1,625 turles, 1105 were alive and rest died. On Decmber 29, out of 1,859, 450 turtles died,” Das said.

He added that on interogation, the arrested men said told that they loaded the turtles from Varanasi and Sultanpur districts of Uttar Pradesh. The Indian or Gangetic Softshell Turtles are vulnerable and given high degree of protection under Shedule 1 of the India’s Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972.

Showing some serious security flaws of Indian forests, 11 men with the carcasses of two adult sambars were arrested by the Forest Department from Bhadra Tiger Reserve in Karnataka.

“The hunting was done in the national park, one adult male and female were killed and the hunters chopped off the head of one of the deer claiming ‘halaal’. We arrested 11 men who hail from Bengaluru and ceased three vehicles,” Sharna Basapta, Assistant Conservator of Forest, Karnataka told IANS.

The Indian sambar is also vulnerable and listed under Schedule 3 of the WPA, though their hunting is still illegal.

In a first this year, a leopard skin was seized from Odisha on January 1, the Wildlife Protection Society of India informed.

The leopards and tiger poaching remained at an all-time high in 2015, with al least 436 leopards dead and 154 cases of hunt or skin and claws seizures.

“The hunt must have been done previously. The skin was ceased from Mayurbhanj district of Odisha,” Tito Joseph of WPSI told IANS.

Meanwhile, near Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, a carcasses, which in prima facie seemed that of a blackbuck was discovered by the state forest department.

“It seemed to be of a blackbuck which was hunted down, but to be sure, we have sent the remains to Jabalpur for testing,” a forest official said.

Another incident in which 14 kgs of deer meat was seized from a person from Seony Division of Madhya Pradesh earlier on January 1 was also reported.

In Rajasthan, a porcupine and two patridges were poached from Jodhpur district and six peacocks from Bhilwada district, WPSI informed.

Meanwhile, 15 men, all tourists, were arrested with weapons and meat while camping in the protected forest area from Lansdowne Forest Division in Uttarakhand. The meat was sent to the lab for testing and their weapons and vehicles were confiscated.

(Kushagra Dixit can be contacted at kushagra.d@ians.in)