Tiger poaching: NGO scanner on cattle smugglers

Tiger poaching: NGO scanner on cattle smugglers

29 Dec 2008, 0459 hrs IST, Krishnendu Mukherjee, TNN

KOLKATA: Almost three months after CID took over the probe into the tiger poaching case in Sunderbans, an independent investigation by an NGO has indicated that a gang of cattle smugglers may have shot the tiger on October 3.

So far, the CID probe has led to a single arrest.

The investigation by Conservation Organisation of Nature and Environment (CONE), the NGO, was ordered by the then director of Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve, Pradip Shukla. However, the report was not passed on to the forest department as Shukla was shunted out shortly after the incident.

“Though the Bangladesh-Bongaon border is largely sealed, cattle smugglers from across the border use a particular route between Bakna and Jhila. This river path suits them as BSF doesn’t patrol this route closely,” said Animesh Roy of CONE.

“Locals told us that on that day, the boat had strayed near the Jhila forest. The tiger saw the cows and jumped on the boat. But before it could pounce on any of the animals, the poachers shot it in the head. The tiger fell into the river and the boat rowed away,” Roy said.

“It’s true that I had asked CONE to conduct an in-depth study. But since I am not there any longer, I can’t comment on the matter,” Shukla said, when TOI got in touch with him.

According to Roy, the smugglers gave the heavily guarded Raimangal river a wide berth and entered the Bakna forest range from Sandeshkhali on boats through the Chhoto Molla Khali market. “They take the same route on their way back as it transports them straight into Bangladesh Sunderbans,” he added.

“The team of smugglers had five members. Two of them are from Kumirmari, while two are from Bangladesh. The fifth is untraced. The cows were bought from Sarberia market and sent to Bangladesh through Sandeshkhali and the riverways of Mollakhali and Kumirmari,” he said.

Former Project Tiger director P K Sen said poaching is rampant in the Sunderbans and the state forest department is not well-equipped to tackle this. “Forest guards cannot differentiate between Bangladeshi boatmen and their Indian counterparts,” he said. He added that intelligence teams should be frequently used in the area to study such cases.

What compounded troubles is the fact that the state government does not have a comprehensive blueprint for utilizing central funds for the development of Sunderbans’ fragile ecosystem, Sen felt.

Apart from cattle smuggling, Bangladeshis are also involved in collecting wood, honey and animal skins to feed a thriving market in different South-East Asian countries.

CID investigators, however, said the investigation was still on. “We have arrested Paritish Mondal, a poacher. From his possession we have found a bone which was later confirmed by Zoological Survey of India as tiger bone. We are still on the lookout for Panchanan Giri, a longtime accomplice of Mondal,” said special inspector-general (CID) Sanjay Mukherjee.




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