Tuesday, August 28, 2007

State connection to Gir lion poaching?

Staff Reporter

Gujarat police taking help of their counterparts in State
Method of trapping lions similar to the one adopted by the Hakki Pikki tribe

Each lion’s claw is priced at Rs. 25,000 in the market
BANGALORE: Investigations have thrown up the possibility of persons from Karnataka being involved in the poaching of lions in the Gir sanctuary in Gujarat. The Gujarat Crime Investigation Department (CID), which is investigating the case, is taking the help of the Karnataka’s CID (Forest Cell) to unravel the network, if any, here.

The Karnataka angle came to light during the Inspector-General of Police, CID Crime and Railways, Gujarat, Keshav Kumar’s presentation on investigation with regard to the poaching of eight lions in Gir sanctuary in March and April. He was participating in a workshop conducted by the Karnataka CID (Forest Cell).

While he was showing the photographs of 50 arrested in three cases of poaching, Inspector-General of Police (CID Forest), Karnataka, K.S.N. Chikkerur intervened to say the accused No. 18 in the list resembled an offender involved in wildlife and forest offences in Karnataka. “He is a resident of Shikarikoppa in Shimoga district,” Mr. Chikkerur said. Mr. Kumar replied that the accused No.18 had given his name as one belonging Bahelia community of Madhya Pradesh and added: “I will give more details about the accused to you.”

Modus operandi

Mr. Kumar’s presentation implied that the method of trapping lions was similar to the way members of the Hakki Pikki tribe trapped wild animals in Karnataka. Mr. Chikkerur told The Hindu that the way nets were tied at the scen e of the Gir poaching resembled the Hakki Pikkis’ method. “This nomadic tribe travels by foot and [its members] monitor animal movement very closely. They are active in Shimoga, Davangere and Chitradurga,” he said. Mr. Chikkerur said the department would help their Gujarat counterparts in finding the possible link.

During the presentation, Mr. Kumar gave a detailed account of the investigation into three incidents of poaching in Junagadh district of Gujarat, which, he said “was the first investigation into poaching in Gujarat”.

He said the accused, who belonged to Bahelia community, were trading “lion’s claws, bones and flesh.” The accused buried the remains, including the pelt, in several pits. Each lion’s claw is priced at Rs. 25,000 in the market. “While the accused look very poor, many … use expensive mobile phones,” Mr. Kumar said.

Later he told The Hindu that his department was in touch with the Karnataka CID to trace the calls made by the accused to persons in Karnataka. “Amar Kumar Pandey (Additional Inspector-General of Police, Karnataka CID Forest C ell) is looking into it,” he said. Similarly they were also in touch with their counterparts in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

“We are coordinating with others to unravel the international mafia in poaching,” he said.

The Hindu
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Friday, Aug 24, 2007
Karnataka - Bangalore

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