Poaching in Kerala triggers alarm bells in Bandipur (India)


The Hindu

Date Published

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The Edamalayar elephant poaching case in Kerala has triggered alarm bells in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve where anti-poaching camps have been put on high alert.

Though there is no contiguity of habitat or forests linking south Kerala with Bandipur, the officials are not taking any chances.

H.C. Kantharaj, Director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, told The Hindu that one was coming across organised elephant poaching after a long time in this part of the country and hence the anti-poaching camps had been asked to maintain utmost vigil.

Bandipur, besides harbouring a high density of tigers, is known for elephants. The 874-sq. km national park has an elephant population in the range of 1,600 to 1,800 with a density of 1.8 per sq. km as per the 2011-12 estimation.

The unnatural death of elephants reported in Karnataka is mainly due to man-animal conflict in which either the elephant gets electrocuted or shot; but none of them have been poached so far for trading in ivory, according to Mr. Kantharaj.

“But, after the Kerala incident, which is still being investigated, we are not taking any chances as Bandipur abuts the border with Kerala as well as Tamil Nadu. Potential poachers can strike in one State and slip away into another and hence the vigil,” he said. D. Rajkumar of Wildlife Conservation Foundation called for an emergency meeting of the Forest Department officials of the three States to chalk out contingency plans.

There are 50 anti-poaching camps in Bandipur each manned by two permanent staff and three daily wage labourers. They are fully trained and equipped with weapons and communicate over wireless sets. Mobile handsets have been given to each team. Their movements are monitored by using ‘hejje’ (pugmark) software which gives the higher authorities real-time information about the area covered by foot patrolling. In case of any eventuality, the anti-poaching camp personnel can send snaps using mobile phones which enable the senior staff at the headquarters to analyse the ground situation to comprehend its gravity and take appropriate steps, Mr. Kantharaj said.

In the meantime, non-governmental organisations such as Wildlife Conservation Foundation too have stepped up its campaign in the villages adjoining Bandipur. “The local communities have been advised to watch out for the movement of strangers in their areas and bring it to the notice of the authorities immediately,” Mr. Rajkumar said.

In addition to the anti-poaching camps, the Special Tiger Protection Force deployed at Maddur and H.D. Kote too have been sounded to be on guard.

There are 40 special tiger protect force personnel fully trained and equipped who undertake foot patrolling by day and move in vehicles at night to ensure the protection of wildlife.