With CBI hot on trail, poachers killed tiger in Tadoba reserve
Posted online: Monday , Nov 09, 2009 at 0418 hrs
Nagpur : For over two months, the CBI had been on the trail of the poaching gang that the agency’s sleuths busted at Nagpur railway station on Friday. Over this period, the poachers not only managed to evade their pursuers but also killed a tiger in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR).
Of the two tigers whose skins were seized from the gangsters, one had been killed just a few days ago, when the CBI was still hot on the trail, The Indian Express has learnt. The other had been killed two months ago. The CBI also seized 50 kg tiger bones from the gang of five.
The second kill has raised the question as to how investigating and vigilance agencies, which knew of the extreme poaching pressure on Chandrapur district, allowed the poachers to target the most sensitive TATR.
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) member-secretary Rajesh Gopal confirmed on Sunday that the investigators had been following leads for some time. The gang had been camping for 15-20 days in Ballarshah, from where it had boarded the Sampark Kranti Express.
Sources said the CBI had been trailing the gang since July 31 after the interception of a call. The other agency involved in the operation, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) had, in October, sounded an alert that poachers were active in TATR. It provided some phone numbers to the Forest department to track.
“We will request the CBI for a chronology of events leading to the raids. The Forest department must be kept in the loop since they are responsible for vigilance and protection of tigers,” Gopal said. That both agencies knew of the poaching threat since July 31 is clear. What is not clear is whether they had specific information that the gang was on the job, or whether they just had a tip-off on the couriers going to Chandrapur to collect the material.
“Poachers camp for as many days as it takes to execute the kill,” said Nitin Desai, director (Central India)of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). Was this point missed by the CBI so that poaching went on before the agency tracked down the gang? Sanjay Dube, CBI inspector who conducted the raid, refused to discuss it; WCCB director Rina Mitra couldn’t be contacted.
Ballarshah is close to Junona forest near Chandrapur and Gondpipri, from where three tiger cubs each were found orphaned earlier this year.
Asked if he suspected the tigers were removed from TATR, chief conservator of forests Nandkishore said, “We will have to find that out. The CBI hasn’t shared anything with us. We had sought WCCB’s intervention.”
The seven-foot tiger skin bears two bullet marks. The gun couldn’t be recovered, suggesting that the actual killers are at large.