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Speeding trains, poaching taking jumbo toll in N Bengal

The Pioneer, New Delhi, 25 November 2013

It is just not the speeding trains that kill elephant in North Bengal, poaching of tuskers have also picked up in the region with four recent deaths in a row reported from Buxa Tiger Reserve and Kalimpong forests.


According to experts and forest officials, the region has hardly ever seen poaching of elephants in the past. The modus operandi of these incidents indicates it to be a handiwork of organised gang of poachers that have probably infiltrated from North-East. Confirming the incidents of poaching Chief Wildlife Warden NC Bahuguna said that the department is conducting raids and has seized some ivory from the forest divisions of Jalpaiguri and Jhargram. “While we have evidence to support that poachers killed elephants on two instances, we are still waiting for forensic reports to determine the cause of death of the other two,” he said.


The local sources, however, informed that two carcasses were bullet-riddled and two others carried poisoned arrows. The elephants are largely found in the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS), Chapramaari WLS, Gorumaara National Park, Buxa Tiger Reserve and Jaldapaara National Park. They migrate in these forests using the connecting reserved forest.


According to Heerak Nandy, Member IUCN, (Commission on Ecosystem Management), “The incidents of elephant or rhino poaching were practically unheard of in the forests, due to measures taken by the forest department beginning from late 80’s and continuing through the early 90s. However, the recent occurrence of these incidents at such a frequency is certainly alarming and needs to be crushed before it gets out of hand.”


A senior forest official said that in two cases the poachers followed the elephants from Nepal and shot them. “They chopped off their heads and took away the tusks. In other cases, we are not sure from where the poachers came from,” he said.


Nandy said poaching activities are organised in Assam and other parts of North-East. So, there could be a possibility that certain gangs could have infiltrated to these jungles. Buxa for instance shares almost contiguous forest patches with Manas Wildlife Sanctuary of Assam, he said. Further, there could also be a newly developing local gang due to deterioration of economic situations in this part of the region.


However, the officials are yet to have direct evidence that poachers enter the forests from Assam. The department has started appointing patrol parties to keep vigil and developed the intelligence gathering network on poachers.