An investigation at MP’s Satpura tiger reserve into poaching of a pangolin, a highly endangered species covered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list, revealed a link in between poachers and buyers in Nepal.
The poachers were found using advanced communication technologies like voice over IP (VoIP) or internet telephony to evade law enforcement agencies.
In July, some staff of the tiger reserve found people with a ballam, a crude weapon, in suspicious circumstances near Sakai village.
The people fled from the spot but after questioning the villagers, it was revealed that those people had killed a pangolin. Pangolin scales and meat, having great demand in South east Asia, were also recovered.
Ten people were arrested from Sakai village, who named one Jhulan as an intermediary, who confessed that he had sold wildlife merchandise to Yunus, a meat trader based in Itarsi.
On Monday, investigators told HT that the Nepal connection emerged from the call records of the accused. Intelligence agencies have time and again pointed out that animal merchandise finds its way out of the country through the Nepal border and is later sent to China and other south-east Asian countries.
“For the first time, VoIP telephony and that too, from a small place like Itarsi was found to be used by the accused in poaching cases to connect with people in Nepal,” said an official.
Investigators also found details of calls and a trip to Alwar by Yunus. “The Alwar link is being probed because Rani, the wife of notorious poacher Sansarchand, was arrested by Rajasthan police and was known to operate from Rajasthan,” said a senior forest department official. The call detail records also reveal that the accused was in touch with suspects in other poaching cases.
During investigations, Jhulan is learnt to have told the forest department that he had sold a tiger skin to an Ojha (exorcist) in Chhindwara and bones to Yunus and his son Abdul.
Attempts are being made to trace the Ojha and information is sought from Yunus on his contacts in Nepal.