Shock start to the Year of the Wild, 11 poachers of Sambar deer caught

Shock start to the Year of the Wild,  11 poachers of Sambar deer caught
The Karnataka government, which has declared 2017 the ‘Year of the Wild’, started the New Year’s Day with a bang. The Forest Department arrested 11 poachers of Sambar deer in the Bhadra Tiger Reserve (BTR) in Chikkamagaluru district.

The men travelling by three vehicles were intercepted in the Nettichowka forest range on Kemmangundi road in Tarikere taluk in the early hours of Sunday when they were attempting to flee the protected area, BTR Conservator of Forests, P B Karunakar, told DH. Forest officials had become suspicious on seeing the men in the forest so late in the night. When they began questioning them, one of the men ran away. A team led by Range Forest Officer (RFO) of Bhadra Wildlife Range, Thanigebail, M Ullas, then detained 11 others.

The suspects had killed the animals to consume the meat and sell it in resorts and home stays surrounding the BTR, Karunakar said. The poachers had arrived in the forest on Saturday night and hunted a male and a female Sambar deer. They skinned the female deer and ate its meat by cooking in the wild. The male deer was kept alive.

The poachers were booked under the Wildlife (Conservation) Act and produced before the JMFC court on Monday. They have been remanded in judicial custody for 15 days. Forest officials seized a pickup van and a jeep.  The carcass has been sent for post-mortem, Karunakar said.

Among the suspects is Mohammed Sameer Ahmed, 29, from Sakleshpur, Hassan district, who represented Karnataka in the national-level shooting competition and won the gold medal (as per his statement). A life member of the Karnataka State Rifle Association, Sameer is said to have shot down the female deer. His father, Akhtar Ahmed, 67, who owns Hiba Coffee Estate at Udayavara near Sakleshpur, is among those arrested.

Officials said the poaching plot was masterminded by Rafeeq Meer Hasen Ali, 42, a real estate businessman and car dealer from Richmond Town, Bengaluru. Also a sharpshooter, he shot down the male deer. He sped away in a car with two foreign-made guns on seeing the forest officials.

Other suspects are Mudassir Ali, 22, a resident of Richmond Town, who works at Infosys; Mohammed Rizwan, 36, a timber dealer and coffee planter from Kodlipet, Kodagu; Meer Nayar Ali, 23, a resident of Richmond Town, who works at Global Travel Company; Meer Najeeb Ali, 18, also from Richmond Town and a PUC student at Jain College; and Syed Ameen (30), a resident of RT Nagar and MTech graduate working for a Danish multinational. Rafeeq is the maternal uncle of Mudassir, Najeeb and Nayar.

The eight men were helped by Arun Annappa, 23, Prasanna, 18, Chethan, 26, and Harish, 25, all professional poachers from Attigundi village, Chikkamagaluru. Forest officials said Akhtar had confessed to being involved in poaching for many years now. Wildlife conservationist D V Girish described it as the biggest haul seized in the BTR.

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