The state government has authorised four senior forest officials to collect call records from telecom companies, carry out an analysis of the data and employ the same to track wildlife criminals. The forest department sought permission from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to track calls of poachers to help them gather information about their activities.
Pointing out that only the state police force was authorised to track calls and obtaining information from them took an unusually long time, forest officials said that it added to their difficulties as far as real-time tracking and intelligence-gathering were concerned. Only innovative processes could help overcome the problem of poaching, they said. “We had to depend on police to obtain CDRs. Although they cooperated, the procedure took time and delayed investigations,” said a senior wildlife wing official.
Reinforcing the importance of CDRs, and the tangible results it has yielded in on-field investigations, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) BG Hosmath said, “It helped us nab several tiger and elephant poachers, who are now in jail. The other advantage is that CDR is admissible as evidence in courts.” Forest officials are now empowered under the Information technology (procedure and safeguards for inception, monitoring and decryption of information) Rules, 2009.
Issued last week, the government notification authorises the additional principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), directors of Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Rajiv Gandhi National Park and a chief conservator of forest in Bengaluru to collect call detail information and live tower location, and tower dump data from service providers. They have been empowered to avail this information while discharging their duties under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
According to Rule 11 of Information Technology Rules, there were only 11 agencies across the country that are entitled to obtain CDRs, a list that does not include the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), officials said.