Tiger poachers take to strangling prey
KOLKATA, Oct. 30: Poachers from Bangladesh and their Indian accomplices appear to have adopted a new method to kill tigers in the Sunderbans ~ strangulation.
Following interrogation of a few poachers arrested in the course of the past few months, officials of the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) were able to piece together the modus operandi of the poachers who, in recent times, are believed to have formed a syndicate with international links as far countries in South-East Asia and China.
Over the past few weeks, The Statesman accessed CID documents from which it emerged that strangling the large felines is now a more favoured method than shooting them. Poachers ~ usually a pair ~ lie in wait atop a tree for a prospective prey. Once a tiger is spotted, the duo run a noose down. “The timing has to be perfect. The noose is carefully lowered and slid across the animals’s neck. The duo then use all the strength at their disposal to pull the rope. It is risky business, but some of the poachers we interrogated appeared to have mastered the use of the noose very well,” a senior CID officer said.
The most important reason why strangling is the new favourite is because the slain animal’s skin remains intact. Skins in perfect condition fetch far more profits in the international market than those with bullet holes. This came to light with the arrest of Paritosh Mondal (52) recently. Mondal, CID sources said, was part of a network of Indo-Bangla poachers operating in the Sunderbans.
The wild cats are primarily killed by firearms which would be smuggled into Sunderbans, in South 24-Parganas, by Bangladeshi pirates settled in the mangrove reserve. But interrogation of some arrested poachers revealed that since it was getting increasingly difficult to smuggle in muskets and other rudimentary firearms, strangling the tiger, though risky, was considered a useful and effective method.
Strangling is preferred to poisoning the animals because the use of poisonous substances, because of their inherent property, tend to destroy the hair texture on the tiger’s hide. “In 1998 forest guards recovered a skinless body of tiger in the forest. After scrutinising the documents we learned that the tiger was poisoned by the poachers and they used good-quality cyanide,” a CID officer disclosed.
Wages vary between Rs 5,000 for strangulating the animal to Rs 2,000 for the successful use of the other two methods.
It is usually deers which are made the target of bullets. The value of punctured dear hides is no way near as close as an intact tiger skin. Deer horns and hoofs are also smuggled out.
The CID suspects Bangladeshi fish traders to be deeply involved in animal poaching in the Indian half of the Sunderbans. A possibility of forest guards supplying ammunitions to the poachers cannot be ruled out either.
In 2001, the village folks in Gosaba killed a tiger with fire arms. When forest officials failed to seize the weapons, a doubt arose on the probable nexus between forest guards and poachers.
According to CID sleuths, the tiger carcasses are smuggled out to Bangladesh on trawlers and sometimes on launch. What is more alarming is that the skins are also smuggled out via land routes from Hasnabad in North 24-Parganas. Kolkata is also a centre for smuggling out the contraband.
The secret hide out of Panchanan Giri, an accomplice of Mondal in Kolkata’s Bhowanipore, was tracked and busted by the CID which found several tiger skins there. Giri’s interrogation revealed that the skins are smuggled mainly to Nepal and South-East Asian countries where they are auctioned in casinos. The skins are also sold at high rates in European markets where there is huge demand.
A forest official said that Panchanan, who was arrested with 22 tiger skins, was released on bail. “We are ill-equipped while the poachers and pirates are well armed. The Coast Guards use only two speed boats which are not sufficient to meet the challenge posed by the poachers,” he added. Barring the monsoon season, poachers remain active throughout the year.
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