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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the increasing number of elephants being killed for ivory in the forests in the state, the state government has come out with a slew of measures, including aerial surveillance, setting up anti-poaching camps and camera traps on the territories of forests to tackle poaching.
Stating that the government was aware of the recent incidents of elephant poaching, Forest Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan told the Assembly that a decision had been taken to buy drones as part of conducting aerial surveillance in the forests.
‘’Field patrolling will be intensified. Intelligence gathering will also be strengthened by the active participation of local people, tribesmen and others,’’ he said in reply to a submission moved by Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan.
As ivory trade was not confined to the state alone, the minister said that a meeting of the forest ministers of neighbouring states would be held on August 6 to tackle the increasing incidents of elephant poaching.
On the recent episode of elephant poaching in the Malayatoor forests in the past two months, as raised by Achuthanandan, he said that 16 people (13 from Thiruvananthapuram and three from Malayatoor) had been arrested. Radhakrishnan also mentioned that four forest officials had been suspended on the basis of a preliminary inquiry by the Vigilance wing of the Forest Department.
He said that the carcases of five elephants with their tusks removed were found in the Malayatoor forest. Of the five, four were found in Thundathil range and one in Edamalayar range, he added. In the past five years, the minister said that 323 cases had been registered for killing animals and as many as 294 wild animals had been killed during the period.
Achuthanandan, in his address, demanded a comprehensive inquiry into the recent episodes. ‘’In the past 10 months, 28 tuskers were killed for ivory. The government has not taken any steps even though a former forest department watcher Kunjumon had intimated about the poaching activities. Instead of taking steps to arrest those involved in the illegal killing of tuskers, Kunjumon was arrested,’’ he said.
He also alleged that the government had failed to curb the killing of tuskers though it had spent Rs 13 crore in 2013-14 and Rs 16 crore in 2014-15 for elephant protection. Apart from that, the government had also received Rs 3 crore each year as part of Project Elephant.