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Are tigers safe in Bhadra reserve forest?

K M Santhosh Kumar, Chikmagalur, Apr 6, 2013, DHNS : 22:51 IST

The arrest of 2 poachers throws light on illegal trade

Tiger pelt was seized by the officials in Kerala. DH Photo
The incidents of poaching of tiger and a seizure of tiger pelt in a house in Kerala has come to light after two years of poaching.

The police have arrested two persons from Hakkipikki colony and have seized tiger claws two days ago.

The development has thrown light on the illegal trade in wildlife articles, including tiger skins, procured by poachers from Bhadra forest. This makes wildlife conservationists to raise doubt over conservation of tigers in the Bhadra reserve forest.

Shahaji from N R Pura was arrested for poaching leopard at Hebbe zone in 2010. However, he was released on bail. Soon after his release, Shahaji had hunted down a tiger and had sold pelt to one Iqbal from Kerala, who is said to have access to international market.

Tigers and leopards are considered to be critically endangered animals. They are protected under Appendix I of the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).

Increased poaching of tigers in forests could be because of the thriving black market for Indian tiger and leopard skins in the international market. Seizure of tiger skin from the house of Iqbal in Kerala has matched the photographs taken by Bhadra Reserve Forest officials, said SP N Shashikumar.

“Four tiger claws seized from the house of poachers in Hakkipikki colony in Mallenahalli have been sent to forensic laboratory. In fact, we had information on the tiger pelts. However, the accused had fled the spot.,” he said.

The arrested are real poachers. They were engaged in poaching tiger, leopard, deer, antelope, wild cat and so on. They have widened their network to Chikmagalur, Hassan, Shimoga, Uttara Kannada and Mumbai, said the police.

“The poachers network is strong in the district. Wildlife Acts are not implemented effectively. A forest department official was caught recently for stealing wooden logs. Anti poaching camps and Vigilance Squad for checking smuggling of wild animals are not active,” said Bhadra Wildlife Conservation Trust’s D V Girish.

Wildlife activist G Veeresh said nine elephants, four leopards, two tigers and one bison were killed in Bhadra Reserve Forest from 2006 to 2012. Two elephants were killed only for ivory, he added. Stating that Eco Development Committee gets funds from Project Tiger, wild life activist G Veeresh alleged that to avail the funds, the officials have been showing false document stating that poaching is under control.

He said “anti poaching camp should have minimum of eight staff. Though there are 36 anti poaching camps in Bhadra reserve forest limits, each camp has only two staff. However, as per the records there are eight staff in each camp.”

In a joint survey conducted by the CWS and Bhadra Wildlife division, photographs of 33 tigers have been clicked. There are 100 camera trapping in Bhadra Reserve Forest. As per the forest officials, there is one tiger for every 33 square kilometre area.”

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