The seizure of a sack filled with tiger bones from two men suspected to be involved in poaching is threatening to turn conservation measures into a myth. The sack also contained five skins of barking deer and spotted deer, all bearing bullet holes. The deer are also protected animals under Schedule III of the Wildlife Protection Act.
Officials fear that the two men arrested are involved in the lucrative, but illegal trade of tiger bones. What is more alarming though, is that officials suspect the animal to have been poached in the vicinity of the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, an area heavily monitored by forest guards. Officials believe that the case would draw the wrath of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.
Normally, wildlife sleuths stumble on tiger skins. But it’s hard to establish a case of poaching from the skin alone. The bones are a different matter, and is indicative of a true case of illegal hunting. Police have begun investigations in Bangalore and Kushalnagar, where the arrests and seizure were made.
“We were shocked as this is probably the first time we have found tiger bones,” a source, who was present during the seizure, said. “We hope this gives us leads to the bone trade, which is a serious concern.”
The two men arrested in the Bharatinagar police station limits on Sunday were identified as Chidananda and his associate.
Both have a criminal past. Police also recovered deer horns and a skull from them. The tiger bones are said to be of an adult animal. One of the accused claimed he found the contraband in Dubare, Kodagu district. However, officials suspect the origin to be between Dubare and Nagarahole — right in the middle of a tiger reserve.
Police are now searching for the tiger’s paws and other body parts, which will provide more leads into the case. Those found guilty of poaching tigers face a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment under Section 51 (1) c of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act.
“The bullet holes are cause for grave concern,” said Sharath Babu, honorary wildlife warden, Bangalore. “Entering a forest area with an illegal weapon attracts charges of hunting under the Wildlife Act. A thorough investigation has to be done to crack the case and bring those involved to book.”
Pramod Kumar, sub-inspector, Bharatinagar, said, “Yes, we have arrested two people and have seized a bag full of bones and other wildlife products. An investigation is being conducted and details cannot be divulged at this stage.”