TN tusker deaths stir fears over role of Anchetty gang (India)


By Chetan R, Bangalore Mirror Bureau

Date Published
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It’s the wont of poachers to hack through trunks of tuskers with chainsaws to retrieve the tusks
‘L’-shaped cut in the trunk of a bull with missing tusks raises poaching worries
The carcasses of two elephants found on Sunday at Jawalagiri forests under the Hosur forest division of Tamil Nadu has given the jitters to the city’s wildlife conservation community. The remains of the two male adult elephants, believed to have died a few days ago, were recovered from the same forest division where the Anchetty gang operates, leading to doubts about their involvement. The suspicions were triggered after sleuths found that tusks were missing from one of the dead bulls. 
The Hosur division is adjacent to the Bannerghatta and Kanakapura divisions of Karnataka Forest Department, and together the three constitute an elephant corridor. 
The forest brass at the Hosur division, though, have denied anything amiss, and have pointed to lightning as the cause of the death. “The elephants were found dead. It seems they were killed about a week ago. The reason was lightning,” A K Ulaganathan, DFO, Hosur division, told Bangalore Mirror. 
But sources revealed to Bangalore Mirror it was not at all comforting to learn that the trunk was cut in an ‘L’ shape from one of the tuskers. Those in the know say that ‘L’-shaped cuts are caused by poachers using chainsaws to hack their way into the tusks through the trunk. 
“The dead elephants are both adults. While the small tusks of one of them were found intact, they were missing in the second elephant. Moreover, its trunk was cut in an ‘L’ shape, which points to the operations of an organised gang involved in removing the tusks of killed elephants. As the Hosur division abuts our forests, and with the name of the Anchetty gang popping up in one or the other case of late, our sleuths are also on the alert,” a source told Bangalore Mirror. 
Wildlife volunteers are now calling for a joint task force to target the notorious Anchetty gang, which is said to be active in the border areas of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. 
In July 2013, six tusks were seized by Bangalore police from poachers, suspected to belong to the Anchetty gang. The questioning of the seven arrested had taken the probe trail to the Anchetty forests, where arms and ammunition were hid in rocks. Also in June 2014, Anekal police had seized two tusks from two suspected poachers, who too hailed from Anchetty. 
Given this context, reports about the deaths of two more elephants have unsettled many wildlife conservation experts. They are also picking holes in the lightning theory, finding it an unusual explanation for elephant deaths. 
Sharath R Babu, former honorary wildlife warden, Bangalore Urban, told Bangalore Mirror, “It’s difficult to believe that lightning caused the elephant deaths. Only a detailed probe will bring the facts out. But the removal of tusks gives room for suspicions. The ‘L’-shaped cut of the trunk was a hallmark of forest brigand Veerappan and his gang, and is of late linked to the Anchetty gang. This calls for the formation of a joint task force by both the states as the gang is active along the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border areas.”