The unscrupulous poachers and ivory traders who wish to sell the ‘white gold’ are not only putting the wild elephants under intense pressure, but also the enforcement agencies that are legally bound to safeguard the fauna in our forests. This is first time in the history of elephant poaching that the forest department has decided to hand over the case to the CBI.
Speaking to ‘Express’ Forest Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said the case has wider ramifications and the state forest department cannot alone handle the poaching cases as the ivory dealers and their markets have transnational connections. Against this backdrop, the department is planning to hand over the case to CBI, he said. A senior forest official said a formal proposal has already been sent to the Home Department and they would take up the case with the national agency.
The poachers have been enjoying political patronage, besides having considerable influence in the corridors of power and judiciary. Taking advantage of this clout, the ivory dealers employ armed poachers, who in turn target herds of elephants and slaughter them mindlessly for tusks, said officials. The forest department has so far arrested 28 poachers and around 12 lower-rung members of the ivory trade rackets. However, the case is still revolving around the poachers here without touching the real big sharks involved in the crime, said V K Venkitachalam, animal rights activist and secretary of Heritage Animal Task Force.
According to sources, the ‘pale yellow white tusks’ sourced from the forests of South India and various ivory products made of them have high demand in Asian countries like Japan, China and parts of Europe and the US. An average tusk weighs around 70-80 kg and each one kg of healthy tusk fetches around `1 lakh in international markets, where the tusk and ivory products are a status symbol for many, they said. While speaking to ‘Express,’ the Minister refused to disclose the actual number of elephants hunted down by the poachers in the forests bordering two neighbouring states. Telling the number of elephants killed will be a presumptive figure at this stage as more skeletons are tumbling out as the probe progresses. So it would be fair to wait till the end of the investigation, he added.
According to the confession of the accused, around 28 elephants were shot down in the forests of the state as part of ivory trade. The animal rights activists have cautioned that the state should realise the gravity of the incident and take urgent steps to stop this, unless the elephant population in the state will head the way of dinosaurs.