National Tiger Conservation Authority mulling CBI probe into tiger poaching
NAGPUR, Saturday 15th June 2013

Taking serious note of the report on Thursday about suspected killing of 11 tigers in Vidarbha and neighbouring Madhya Pradesh in the last two months by organized poachers belonging to the notorious Baheliya community of Katni, the rattled National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) sought factual report from the PCCF (wildlife).

APCCF & acting chief wildlife warden VK Sinha said that although he has not received any letter from the NTCA, "member-secretary Rajesh Gopal and other officials talked to me over phone on Thursday".

"I've sent a report on Friday about what has happened. It's a routine thing and I will not comment on claims of 5-12 tigers being poached by different gangs. The matter is under investigation," Sinha said.

It is learnt that the report maintains confession by poachers about trading five of killed tigers. of names of poachers and their locations have also been sent to the NTCA.

As tiger killings have been reported from MP too, the NTCA feels the extent of poaching is enormous and is contemplating to set up a joint team of officials from Maharashtra and MP to probe the matter. An inquiry from CBI is also under consideration, although it will need a state government nod.

But, Kishor Rithe, member of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), has said that NTCA should accept moral responsibility of the poaching incidents as it is one of the parties to tripartite agreement signed by tiger reserves and state governments.

"I had put the issue of poaching on NBWL agenda in a meeting in Delhi on June 6, but when the matter came up for discussion, NTCA member-secretary had already left, indicating how serious he was about the issue," said Rithe.

State principal secretary (forests) Praveen Pardeshi said that there are only two confirmed poaching cases - one from Melghat and another from Tumsar. Others are from South and MP. "Teams in Nagpur and Melghat are working. Never before we have been able to crack such a case arresting three accused and keeping them in forest custody for so long, and detect parts of tiger flesh, metal traps actually used by poachers," Pardeshi said.

Metal trap seized

Even as the forest department is grappling with the investigations as to who would lead the probe, Melghat and Nagpur officials on Friday seized a metal trap from a house and arrested Jiyalal, a blacksmith from Buradghat, 8km from Paratwada, who used to make traps for poachers for five years.

The two accused - Badlu (Mamru) and Chika - who confessed to have killed a tiger and a bear in Ghatang range in East Melghat in May, had procured the trap from Jiyalal to poach the Ghatang tiger. One more dreaded poacher Siri, who is in forest custody and was arrested from Partwada, was regular buyer of traps from Jiyalal.

All the three accused will be produced before the judicial magistrate first class (JMFC) in Nagpur for demand to extend their custody. The officials will submit an application to try the poachers in Amravati as crime has occurred in that district.

Meanwhile, the Gondia wildlife division officials are on the toes after TOI reported quoting poachers that their gang had killed a tiger in Tumsar this year. The tiger is suspected to nicknamed 'Rashtrapati'. It was last seen on December 22, 2012.

Pench gets patrolling vehicles

Even as tiger poaching incidents rocked the department, Pench Tiger Reserve received seven four-wheelers for patrolling and a troop carrier donated by Mumbai-based NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT). Field director MS Reddy said the vehicles will be distributed to ranges in New Bor, Mansinghdeo and Umred-Karhandla wildlife sanctuaries. The troop carrier will be stationed at Pench for Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF). The PTR has also geared up to tackle man-animal conflict by setting up a dedicated unit. The unit has a darting gun, micro chips, medicines and a team of 10 guards stationed here. "The unit will act on tip-offs regarding birds sale and local poaching," Reddy said.