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Poachers kill leopard in Rajaji core area, bury skin, body parts in pits

The officials said the hide was at least one year old but was buried in the pits recently. The pits looked freshly dug

dehradun Updated: Mar 22, 2018 22:18 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
The decomposed leopard skin that was recovered from one of the pits.(HT Photo)

At a time when forest officials are busy counting tigers across India, suspected poachers killed a leopard in the core area of Uttarakhand’s Rajaji Tiger Reserve (RTR) and hid its skin and other body parts in four pits.

The discovery was made when, following a tip-off, the forest officials reached the core area and started digging at an identified spot. In the first pit, they found bones and parts of skin. On digging the nearby areas, the staff found three more pits with intestine and other body parts. One of the pits had decomposed leopard skin.

The reserve management will be sending the samples to Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to confirm the species. They didn’t rule out the possibility of the bones being that of a tiger.

Principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) Jai Raj said he received the tip off Wednesday evening. Jai Raj, who is also the head of forest force (HoFF), formed a team that reached the core area Thursday afternoon. The spot in the core area is near Haripur Kalan settlement on the banks of River Ganga in Haridwar range of the reserve.

“I had received information that a leopard carcass was hidden in the pits in the reserve. It is difficult to say whether the carcass is that of a leopard or a tiger or some other animal for which support will be sought from WII,” Jai Raj said.

RTR deputy director Vaibhav Kumar Singh along with divisional forest officer (DFO), Haridwar division, Akash Verma reached the spot late evening. Singh said that a leopard hide has been recovered but added that they will wait for the WII to carry out a DNA test for confirmation.

The officials said the hide was at least one year old but was buried in the pits recently. The pits looked freshly dug.

This is not the first time when such an incident has been reported in Uttarakhand. In 2015, five tiger skins were recovered from an accused in Haridwar. On investigation, officials found the big cats’ body parts were hidden in pits at a place adjoining the Corbett Tiger Reserve.

Haripur Kalan inside the RTR is inhabited by members of sapera community. They were earlier found involved in poaching of smaller species such as pangolin, lizards, and others.

“We are investigating the case and would do our best to trace the people involved in it (poaching),” Digvijay Singh Khati, chief wildlife warden, said.

At the time of filing the report, forest officers were still at work in the core area and had also called for sniffer dogs.

First Published: Mar 22, 2018 22:18 IST