Probe Sought into VSS’s Role in Tusk Trade (India)


Radhakrishnan Kuttoor, The Hindu

Date Published

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The arrest of a Vana Samrakshana Samiti (VSS) president at Gurunathanmannu in the Ranni Forest Division for illegal possession and transaction of elephant tusks has thrown light on the involvement of forest protection group leaders in anti-wildlife activities in the State, Heritage Animal Task Force (HATF) secretary V.K. Venkitachalam has said.

In a letter to the Director of the Project Elephant in New Delhi, the HATF secretary called for a detailed probe into the killings of wild elephants and the transaction of elephant tusks with the help of VSS office-bearers in the State.

Two days ago, Gurunathanmannu VSS president K.C. Sabu and his accomplice Rajendran of Urumbini were arrested by the flying squad of the Forest Department from the former’s house on charge of possessing two elephant tusks.

Department sources said the tusks were two years old. The Forest Department is yet to identify the route through which the tusks reached the VSS president, says Mr. Venkitachalam.

VSS is a Forest Department initiative launched to ensure public participation in forest management in which persons residing on the forest fringes are given membership for carrying out forest development programmes under the supervision of forest officials.

Mr. Venkitachalam said there were allegations of misuse of powers by the VSS members leading to plundering of forest produce, exploitation of tribespeople, and even poaching.

He said the Kerala government appeared to be reluctant to destroy the huge stock of ivory piled in its lockers.

However, the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments were all set to destroy their stock of tusks as per the orders of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to curb black-marketeering of elephant tusks.

51 elephants killed

Mr. Venkitachalam said the Forest department had taken into custody 51 persons in connection with the criminal cases involving killing of 51 wild elephants in the forest areas of Athirappilly, Vazhachal, Edamalayar and Pooyamkutty in the past one year. However, criminal cases were registered only against two accused so far, he alleged.