Poachers killed, skinned Corbett tigers in daytime: NTCA report
Exposing security lapse in border areas of the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) in Uttarakhand, a report of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) said poachers moved freely during daytime and killed big cats in 2016 without any fear of detection.
Five tiger skins and 125 kg of big cat bones were seized on March 14, 2016 by the Uttarakhand police Special Task Force (STF) in Haridwar. Ramchander of Bhatinda in Punjab was arrested with the wildlife parts.
NTCA did ground investigation into big cat killings and submitted the report to the Uttarakhand High Court at Nainital. A former wildlife warden of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve filed a PIL in the HC last year regarding the poaching. The NTCA report was submitted as an annexure in the case.
“Nearly 8km stretch between Kalagarh and Lansdowne on the western side of Corbett is unmanned, and there are no watch towers, no camp and no surveillance on intrusion of outsiders,” said the report, submitted by DP Bankhwal, inspector general of forests, NTCA.
“Any group of poachers can enter from the side of Lansdowne division, or from the border of two divisions, inside the forest and kill tigers and other wild animals without fear of being caught or detected.”
Corbett and its border areas are known to have the highest density of tigers. The All India Tiger Estimation 2015 put the tiger numbers in the reserve at 240.
“Poaching could have been prevented” if there was coordination between officers posted in both the areas, the report said. “Alerts on poaching attempt by Bawariya poachers was also not taken seriously, as claimed by some members of NGOs, on the ground of being non-actionable.”
The investigation team also found out that the poaching happened during daytime, raising NTCA officers’ concern.
“As per the version of the nabbed poacher, they (poachers) used to move into forest in day hours, fixed traps during day hours, killed the trapped tigers in day hours, skinned the tigers in day hours, and dried the tiger skins and bones inside the forest,” the report pointed out.
And if that’s not all, the dog squad with Corbett is also not trained, making it merrier for the poachers. The report said, “Dog is not skilled to track criminals, but we were told its reflexes are very good to sniff contraband.” NTCA has suggested that sniffer dogs be trained for tracking offenders.
As the poachers have been using border areas, the report mentioned that the two divisions (Kalagarh and Lansdowne) could have pooled resources for better protection of the areas. The poacher arrested has confessed that “the border area is never monitored.”
Corbett’s southern boundary of 17km, adjoining Uttar Pradesh, is also vulnerable, as it does not have watch towers for monitoring, the report said.
NTCA has suggested that an integrated security review plan be chalked out for securing the Corbett boundary and a special operation group (SOG) be deployed for intelligence gathering.
“The tigers were killed in Uttarakhand as per the report that rubbished the claim of some senior forest officers that the big cats were killed in Uttar Pradesh. Undoubtedly, there’s lacuna in protection strategy for tigers and the animals are paying for it,” said Jai Raj, head of forest force (HoFF) and principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF).
“The matter is with the court. We are also investigating the incident at the state level. All loopholes will be reported. We won’t tolerate carelessness of officers on any front.”