Wildlife crimes not in ‘control’ of WCCB; many cases pending (Raigarh District, India)


Roshan Chachane, The Hitavada  

Date Published

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From lynching of tiger to shootout of bear and illegal capturing of wild elephants by authorities, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) officials will a long list of unresolved cases of wildlife crimes on their hands to deal with in a meeting with Forest Department scheduled to be held on Wednesday.

Official records of elephant deaths accessed by ‘The Hitavada’ painted a grim picture with 28 out of 90 deaths causing by electrocution. Of these 27 deaths, 7 are identified as an act of poaching, but cases have been registered in only five cases whereas accused have been identified in only three.

Considering the death of so many elephants after coming in contact of low-hanging high-tension power cables in Dharamjaigarh and Raigarh region, Chhattisgarh State Power Distribution Company Limited (CSPDCL), over a year ago, had sent a work plan worth about Rs 40 crores to raise the level of power cables so that the elephants won’t reach them. But, Forest Department hasn’t responded to this proposal as of yet.

Referring to Sonu, a wild elephant captured by forest officials in 2015, environmentalist Nitin Singhvi questioned that isn’t it a crime to keep a wild elephant under captivity despite having an order of High Court directing to release him in the forest. Isn’t it not a crime to capture and domesticate wild elephants without any official order, Singhvi lamented about three elephants namely Civil Bahadur and Lali, which were caught in 2010 and Raju captured in 2013 without any official order.

The most gruesome incident of wildlife crime happened at village Bakhrutola of Rajnandgaon on September 24, 2011, where a frenzied mob of 3,000 villagers lynched a stray tigress to death as Forest officials, police and district administration officials stood helplessly.
A fact finding team of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had discovered that the lacklustre response of senior officials, pathetic inter-department coordination and lack of equipment or trained manpower such as tranquilizer guns were the main causes of this horrifyingly infamous incident.

Prior to this ghastly incident, a tigress was poisoned to death by unidentified poachers at village Amina of Neur beat under Pandariya range in Kawardha district on December 20, 2010. Third case of tiger poaching was reported at Jamun Pani Region of Bhoramdev on November 11, 2011, just two months after the Rajnandgaon incident. In yet another wildlife crime, police personnel armed with automatic rifles shot dead a female bear inside forest near Navagaon in Mahasamund forest division on March 12, 2016. As the video clips of this harrowing shootout went viral on social media, it created a nationwide outcry. Despite it being an unauthorised action, no action was taken against accused police personnel.

On January 1, 2014, another bear was shot dead by police on the order of Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Pendra Road. 

A three-member probe committee was formed to investigate this crime, but this too has been forgotten by Department. Last but not least, the case of a python killed by 150th Battalion of CRPF personnel at Dornapal camp has also been put on back burner.

When asked, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) RK Singh told ‘The Hitavada’ that most of these cases of wildlife crimes are pending in Court. So, the law will take its own course. On the question of CSPDCL proposal, PCCF said he hasn’t received any proposal and as far as raising the power cables is concerned; it is responsibility of Power Company. On the agenda of meeting WCCB, he told that main objective of the meeting is to strike coordination between various concerning department so as bring efficiency in resolving the wildlife crimes.