Forest department steps up vigil against theft of ivory (Nilgiris District, India)


Rohan Premkumar, The Hindu

Date Published

Probe to detect network in illegal trade in tusks that were removed from carcass of elephants

Though there have been no instances of elephant poaching recorded in the Gudalur Forest Division over the last one year, the Forest Department has mounted a vigil against ivory smuggling, after it busted three attempts to remove tusks from the carcass of elephants that died of natural causes this year.

A few days ago, Gudalur forest division officials arrested M. Manikandan (28), a resident of Puliyamparai, after he was caught trying to sell the tusks of a more than 30-year-old elephant in Karnataka. 

Officials said the accused had tracked down the carcass of the elephant which had been swept downstream to the village where Manikandan lived. 

They said the elephant was believed to have died three weeks ago. Manikandan had gotten the smell of the elephant carcass that lay in a river. He tracked it down, got in to the river and removed the tusks.

A few weeks before Manikandan was arrested, forest department officials arrested three persons who were part of a gang that spotted another carcass and stole the tusks. Another gang using the same modus operandi was busted in February.

Gudalur District Forest Officer, P.K. Dileep said the department was actively trying to find out whether there was a network in southern India that traded in smuggled tusks. 

The investigations into the three recorded instances, however, indicated that the smugglers were unable to sell the tusks, he said.

The forest department is also working towards ensuring that carcasses of elephants are found immediately and the tusks removed and destroyed. The forest department is also working with the local police and Naxal Special Division (NSD) teams in sharing information on the presence of any animal carcass.

Forest staff said local communities, especially tribal people, were being asked to inform the forest department of carcassesso that an autopsy could be performed to determine the cause of death.