The Amravati police and forest department officials picked up a six-member inter-state gang of poachers, who were engaged in smuggling of wildlife animal skins and bones, including the tusk near Paratwada, adjacent the famous Melghat Tiger Project, some 280 kms from Nagpur on Thursday.
According to reports reaching Nagpur on Friday, one of those arrested by the joint operation, was a clerk in the forest department at Chikhaldara. The team acted on a tip off that the gang of poachers were active in the area and wildlife skin, nails, bones and pieces of horns were being smuggled into other states from Melghat.
The superintendent of police (SP), Amravati district, Krishna Kumar held a meeting with officials of Tiger cell. He set up a task force and assigned couple of police personnel and forest officials to negotiate with the poachers in the garb of traders. They, subsequently, settled a deal to buy seven tiger hides, two tusks and skin of a python, all for Rs 3 lakhs.
As per the plan, the SP, along with several police and forest officials laid a trap on Thursday early morning on Paratwada-Pathrot route, near Paratwada. It was the meeting point with the smugglers to finalise the deal.
As decided, two members of the gang appeared there with a tiger hide, a tusk and python skin and demanded Rs 1 lakh as an advance from the police personnel in the garb. Accordingly, the task team handed over a bag of fake notes to poachers. When they were completing the deal, cops arrested them.
Krishnakumar informed that police have seized skin of wildlife, probably of leopard, nails of leopard and tiger, bones of tiger, skin of different animals, pieces of horns of sambar, skeleton of wild cat and an air gun.
The poachers were identified as : Farukh Ahmed, Banshilal Bhushan, Sivan Ahmed, Sheikh Munaf Sheikh Gulab, Harikishore and Ayub Khan. Most of them were from Uttar Pradesh while Sheikh Munaf Sheikh Gulab was a clerk in forest department at Chikhaldara in the district. They were produced before the district court on Friday and kept in police custody till January 16 for further investigation.
Talking to Hindustan Times, noted environmentalist of Amravati, Kishore Rithe of Satpura Foundation, alleged that such poaching were rampant in the Melghat tiger areas because of lack of co-ordination between police and the forest personnel.
“There also needs to be better coordination within the forest department and the wildlife wing themselves to prevent such poaching,” he insisted. At least half a dozen skins of big cats were seized in the area last year itself from poachers, he further pointed out.
Melghat where once over 80 tigers were sighted, now the figure is only 67. Rithe urged the government to activate the proposed Wildlife Crime Bureau immediately for better wildlife conservation.
The chief conservator of forest (wildlife), Vidarbha region, Dr Nand Kishore, however, maintained that wildlife conservation was well-maintained in sanctuaries and national parks than the general forests. “Most of poaching incidents found in general forests,” he added.