Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Two of poaching syndicate held for Gir killings

Ahmedabad, Sept. 4 (PTI): Investigators hunting for those who killed several Asiatic lions in Gir forest earlier this year have received a shot in the arm with the arrest of two persons in Madhya Pradesh belonging to a "pan-national poaching syndicate".

The Gujarat CID team entrusted with the case has scoured five states and found the poachers stalked their quarry on foot for days, but has not managed to recover any bones, nails or pelts of the vanishing felines - they fear these may have already been smuggled out of the country.

"The arrests were made with the help of Madhya Pradesh police in Khandwa district last week as we were on the trail of certain suspects who have a criminal history of poaching protected and endangered animals," a senior member of the team said.

Eight lions were killed and their body parts stolen from Gir in Junagarh district,
the last abode of the majestic big cats, in March-April and the probe has taken the investigators on the trail of a gang in Karnataka reportedly from the Hakki-Pikki hunting and gathering tribe.

He said a "major pan-national poaching syndicate" has been busted of which Gujarat Police arrested 17 men and 13 women, mostly from Katni district of MP. Over 50 children who were with the tribals in Gir during the poaching incidents have also been detained since the probe began.

"The modus operandi of the gang that operated in Gir is very similar to the way the Hakki-Pikki go around hunting in the forests of Karnataka," the official, who had a detailed interaction with Karnataka Police on the issue, said.

The official said the poachers waited in the jungles for many days and tracked lions and other animals on foot. They then laid traps in trenches and also used sharp objects like crudely-made spears to kill the trapped and helpless animals.

The Gujarat government has announced a Rs 2 lakh cash reward to anyone who gives information to the authorities about poachers lurking in the jungles.

It also recently announced setting up of a corpus fund for lion conservation, a government official said.

Offering another incentive so that people get personally involved in ridding the forest of poachers, the government said it will give Rs 1 lakh compensation to anybody injured while trying to prevent poaching.

Gir Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over a 1412.42 sq. km. area.

As per the census conducted by state government in 2005, the number of lions in the sanctuary was 359.


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