Cops ‘poach’ tigers at Kanha reserve
New Delhi, December 28, 2008
Authorities at the Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh have alleged the involvement of local police officers in the poaching of wild animals, including protected species such as tigers and leopards.
In the shocking revelation, park authorities said the police were poaching animals to claim the reward money for seizing animal parts, particularly tiger and leopard skins.
In the past six months, one tiger and three leopards were killed and their skins ‘seized’ by the Balaghat police. This apparently routine seizure turned out to be an elaborate poaching expedition.
The allegation has been made in a letter by the park authorities to the chief wildlife warden of Madhya Pradesh, H. S. Pabla.
“We suspect policemen finance such operations to claim monetary rewards from the forest authorities,” said R. P. Singh, director of Kanha Tiger Reserve. “I have written a letter highlighting these facts to the state’s chief wildlife warden.” Pabla confirmed he had received Singh’s letter. He said, “The authorities at the Kanha Tiger Reserve have raised suspicions about the role of the police in poaching. We are yet to contact senior police officers on this.” Singh has also written to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), urging intervention. This letter reiterates their suspicion regarding the involvement of the police.
A source said: “Suspicion of the police involvement rose in November after a tiger was found killed in the buffer zone of Kanha. Around the same time, the Balaghat police claimed to have seized a tiger skin. However, they refused to share details of the case or that of the accused with the forest department. This raised doubts because a few locals claimed the police were involved in the killing.” The inspector-general of police at Balaghat, C. V. Muniraju, said: “This allegation of animal killings is not correct. This is the first time I am hearing of something like this.” Park authorities, however, stick to their theory.
“A part of the Kanha Tiger Reserve falls under Balaghat, which is a Naxal affected area. Balaghat police get huge funds from the Centre to tackle Naxals and also to build up their network of informers. We suspect some of the money is being diverted to fund the killings by informers, usually with a criminal background. The animal kills are either done by the informers or by other people on hire. These facts have been mentioned in the letter,” said Singh.
He also described the alleged modus operandi. “It is difficult for the police to penetrate the Naxal area. So, we believe they dole out about Rs 5,000 to a local, who then carries out the operation. A prey animal like a deer or a goat is first poisoned and its carcass then left out in the open to lure the tiger/leopard, who is then killed. Sometimes, the animal is killed by electrocution. After a leopard or the tiger dies, it is skinned by the locals, who hand it over to the police. The police then present the skins before the media at a news conference and claim the reward money of about Rs 25,000 from the forest department,” added Singh.
So how did the forest officials conclude the involvement of the police? “Ideally, when the police seize parts of a poached animal, they must provide us with the information on the body parts of the slain animal. In all the four cases mentioned (one tiger, three leopards), the police could not pinpoint where and how the animal was killed or who was involved. The police did not probe this even after we pointed out the discrepancies. So, we told them to present proper facts before staking a claim for a reward,” said Singh.
HOW THEY TRICK ALL
• A part of the Kanha Tiger Reserve falls under Balaghat, which is a Naxalaffected area
• Policemen give about Rs 5,000 to a local, usually a police informer, who then carries out the poaching
• A prey like a deer or a goat is first poisoned and its carcass is then left out in the open to lure a tiger
• Once the animal, usually a leopard or tiger, comes out in the open, it is killed
• The animal is then skinned by the locals, who hand it over to the police
• The policemen then present the skins before the media and claim a reward money of about Rs 25,000 from the forest department