Competitive shooters part of arms racket, hunted wildlife for sport, finds probe | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Competitive shooters part of arms racket, hunted wildlife for sport, finds probe

Many renowned shooters involved in poaching across India, DRI discovers while probing international arms smuggling racket

india Updated: Jun 26, 2017 11:05 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee
Blackbucks in their habitat in the Abohar-Fazilka Wildlife Sanctuary.
Blackbucks in their habitat in the Abohar-Fazilka Wildlife Sanctuary. (HT file photo)

For some of India’s trigger-happy competitive shooters, the target is beyond gold, silver or bronze.

Armed mostly with powerful and accurate German rifles, which are standard-issue sports equipment, illegal night-vision thermal-imaging devices and silencers, they often embark on “hunting trips” and kill the country’s endangered wildlife — usually for trophy.

They are the new, hi-tech killers giving professional poachers such as Bheema Bawaria, who was arrested last October in Gurgaon after 15 years on the run, a stiff competition.

The evil face of these respectable gentry was unmasked this April when a cache of arms, ammunition and animal parts were confiscated from the Meerut home of national-level shooter Prasant Bishnoi, son of retired colonel Devendra Kumar.

A fortnight before the raid and his arrest, he shot dead a leopard near Jim Corbett National Park.

Poachers like Bheema killed Royal Bengals and smuggled tiger eyes, teeth, skin and even genitals to Asian countries where these fetch high price because of their perceived medicinal properties.

Bishnoi took the leopard skin home, to be displayed as trophy of his misadventure.

But the cat was out of the bag when the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), investigating an international arms smuggling racket run by apparently law-abiding civilians, discovered that many Indian shooters have been killing wildlife in states such as UP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Punjab.

Copies of documents the DRI submitted before a special court in New Delhi, which are available with Hindustan Times, reveal that among the shooters are Bishnoi and Amit Goyal. Both are accused of arms smuggling. The agency suspects at least 10 more shooters were part of the ring.

The slain animals are protected under the 1972 wildlife protection law.

Unlike poachers who use snares, these men were armed with sophisticated rifles and they tracked animals at night with thermal-imaging devices that civilians are not supposed to own. Their rifles were fitted with silencers brought into the country by misusing import privileges offered to shooters.

“Boris Mikolic, the Slovenian arms dealer arrested with Goyal and shooter Anil Kumar Langan from Delhi international airport with 25 firearms on April 29, had gone on hunting trips with shooters in several states,” a senior DRI official said.

The agency mentioned names and locations on its records.

On May 29, the DRI seized around 100 firearms, 200,000 cartridges, silencers and night-vision devices from Bishnoi’s home with the leopard skin, deer skins, antlers and other animal parts. The agency said in court that Bishnoi shot barking deer and black bucks, besides the leopard.

One of the black bucks, the skin was seized from his home, was allegedly shot in the jungles near Baraut in UP. Antlers and skulls of Cheetal and hog deer were also seized and these were allegedly Goyal’s kills.

“This is a matter of shame for the country. Since some of my fellow shooters have connection with erstwhile royal families it seems they can’t control the itch on the trigger finger when they spot an animal. Why not shoot with a camera?” said an award-winning shooter who did not wish to be named.

“It is a small fraternity. We bump into each other every other day,” he added.