Tuesday, March 13, 2007

An insider hand in glove with Indian lion poachers?

Forest officials believe so, but CID officials probing the case feel it is too early to comment

Sreenivas Janyala

Ahmedabad, March 12: IS it an inside job? That is what the forest department seems to think so in the lion poaching cases. The CID (Crime) which has been entrusted with investigation, a couple of days ago, is mum on the issue. Investigating officers feel it is too early to comment. But, they have picked out at least a dozen locals, and two beat guards of Babaria range, who have been suspended, for questioning.

The obvious clues with the forest department as well as CID crime indicate a few things:

*e are two check posts on either side of the Babaria-Una road which passes through the forest — at Jakia on the Una side and at Jamvala towards Talala. But only the locals know that the Jamvala check post is in Revenue area and there are two other roads that take off from the forest road before the check post, which means any vehicle coming out of the forest area can go in any direction to avoid the check post especially if it is loaded with 120 kgs of bones and claws of two lionesses and a cub.

Conservator of Forest (Junagadh) Bharat Pathak says, he is sure there was a man on duty at the Jakia check post and that he would have noticed any suspicious vehicle or its occupants. But Pathak is unsure if such a vehicle would have passed through the Jamvala check post because there are alternative roads from there.

“An operation of this scale could not have taken place without some local help. You cannot ignore facts like: the location chosen was perfect and, probably a local vehicle was used not to raise any suspicion. In both cases you need local help. I am keeping my fingers crossed. It could be an inside job with help from an outside gang also,’’ says Pathak.

Meanwhile, statements of at least a dozen people living in nearby areas have been taken by the forest department and CID so far in connection with this case. The forest department has suspended two forest guards in whose beat the poaching occurred. But, CID (Crime) IGP Keshav Kumar says, “It is too early to draw any conclusions.’’

Leopard enters house, no casualties, says CCF

Forest department officials caged a leopard which entered a house in Jhigola ni godia area in Deesa taluka in Banaskantha district on Monday. CCF (wildlife) Pradeep Khanna said, “The leopard was probably chasing a prey when it entered the house. It entered the house in the morning but we got a call at 12.30 pm. The leopard was caged around 4 pm.’’


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