After the Karnataka forest department recently arrested three persons for illegally possessing a pair of tusks, the Nilgiris forest department on Tuesday arrested two more under the Wildlife Protection Act for allegedly selling the tusks, which were taken from a carcass of an elephant to the Karnataka dealers.
Though the forest department claimed that the tusks were taken from an old carcass of an elephant, which might have died due to ailments, the wildlife activists allege that poaching could not be ruled out in this case. They wonder how a patrolling team can miss a giant elephant carcass, which was lying close to the fringe area of a reserve forest.
P K Dilip, District Forest Officer (Gudalur Division) said, “We nabbed two accused after getting information from out Karnataka counterpart. The origin of tusks is Bitherkad reserve forest in the Gudalur division of forests”.
He further said, “After an enquiry, the accused showed us the spot from where they stole the tusks. We found the skeleton of an elephant. The animal might have died at least 8 to 10 months back.”
The two accused have been identified as Kunjumon alias K Santhosh, 30, a Paniya tribal from Orekadavai and K Rajan, 52, a postman working in the area.
According to forest range officer P Ganesan, Rajan worked as a broker to sell the tusks that Kunjumon had. “Kunjumon has accepted that the tusks were taken from the highly-decomposed elephant carcass, which was found in near Bitherkad reserve forest area,” Ganesan said.
He added, “The accused has been waiting with the pair of tusks to strike a good deal. Through Rajan, they found Soman, a dealer from Karnataka and sold the tusks for Rs 85,000.”
When asked why it could not be a poaching case, Dilip said, “We are still investigating the case. Samples from the remaining carcass have been collected for a lab test”. Speaking about the process he said, “Firstly, we have to ascertain the cause of the animal’s death. The lab report will help us proceed further in a clear direction”.
“The carcass must be around 7-8 months old lying just one km away from the main road. At least, during the routine patrolling, the forest staff should have found it. Though the case is confusing, we cannot rule out poaching in this case,” a wildlife activist on condition of anonymity said.
However, Dilip said, “The spot where the elephant’s skeleton was found is very close to a tea garden. There was no complaint received from the public.”
“We are more efforts to transfer the case from the Karnataka forest department. The Karnataka forest department has the confiscated tusks,” the DFO added.