Days after the Telangana Police arrested five persons in Mulugu district for transporting a tiger skin, officials in the Forest department said they have obtained possible leads on a Hyderabad-based buyer who was perhaps willing to pay over Rs 30 lakh for the skin.
The accused had allegedly procured the skin of a sub-adult tiger from Avupally village in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, according to the police, and were caught during a vehicle check at the state border.
అంతర్ రాష్ట్ర పులుల చర్మ స్మగ్లర్ల అరెస్ట్ : – జిల్లా ఎస్పీ డా.సంగ్రామసింగ్ జి. పాటిల్, ఐపీఎస్
ఈ సందర్భంగా ఎవ్వరైనా చట్ట వ్యతిరేక కార్యక్రమలకు పాల్పడితే కఠినంగా శిక్షించడం జరుగుతుందని జిల్లా ఎస్పీ డా.సంగ్రామసింగ్ జి. పాటిల్, ఐపీఎస్ గారు చెప్పడం జరిగింది. @TelanganaCOPs pic.twitter.com/w29sA9GmyP
— SP MULUGU (@MuluguSP) December 22, 2021
This is the third incident involving a dead tiger in Mulugu district in the last six months. Previously, the police had arrested two persons found transporting tiger skin on July 29 and four tribals were arrested on October 3 for poaching a tiger.
While the incidents involving tiger skin have been traced to Chhattisgarh, the poached big cat was believed to have migrated from the neighbouring state a few weeks before it was killed.
“We share borders with Chhattisgarh and there is a black market for such (wild) animal products all over the world. These two tigers were killed in Chhattisgarh and their skins were being brought here for sale,” said Mulugu Superintendent of Police Sangram Singh Patil.
It is the responsibility of every citizen of society to protect endangered species — Dr.Sangrasingh G.Patil, IPS, SP Mulugu
5 Persons were arrested who tried to sell Tiger skin and Nails@TelanganaCOPs @MuluguDfo @FawpsIndia pic.twitter.com/DUZHiP3zPT
— SP MULUGU (@MuluguSP) October 4, 2021
While forest officials, who have taken over the investigation, are in touch with their counterparts in Chhattisgarh to identify the tiger, they have not been able to identify the animal whose skin was recovered in the July 29 arrest.
“We had shared details with the Chhattisgarh Forest department but they could not confirm if it was their tiger. They could not match the details with their database,” Mulugu district forest officer Pradeep Kumar Shetty told indianexpress.com.
2 arrested and a Tiger skin seized near Mullakunta bridge under Eturnagaram police station limits in Mulugu district in #Telangana by Police dept. Further investigations going on. pic.twitter.com/I0pFr544FT
— Forests And Wildlife Protection Society-FAWPS (@FawpsIndia) July 30, 2021
With the second case of seizure of tiger skin in Mulugu in less than six months, officials believe a thorough investigation would throw light on the organised network of wildlife criminals.
“The arrested people are mere middlemen. The kingpins are sitting in Chhattisgarh. We had traced the supply chain in the previous case and further investigation, in this case, will open up the network. We are looking at all stakeholders and from all angles,” the DFO said.
About 70 per cent of Mulugu district is covered with forests and does not have a resident tiger despite being close to Indravati Tiger Reserve in Chhattisgarh. There are no resident tigers in Kawal Tiger Reserve either.
“The spillover population of tigers from Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh has been migrating to parts of Kagaznagar, Asifabad and Mulugu. Kagaznagar has become a breeding place for tigers from Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve and Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra but they are unable to move to the core areas of Kawal Tiger Reserve due to human interference and encroachments along the corridor,” said Mirza Karim Baig, wildlife activist and founder of Forests and Wildlife Protection Society (FAWPS).
Earlier on October 30, forest officials in Kagaznagar arrested ten persons for poaching a tiger here and seized a tiger skin from them.
Baig said tigers along the border areas of Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra are being regularly poached due to a lack of coordination between the forest departments of these states.
“These tigers may be visiting but there is no proper surveillance to know their movement. Every time skin or remains of a tiger is recovered, a special investigation team should be formed with departments and states concerned to establish when and where the tiger was killed. The investigation, in most cases, ends with the arrest of a few involved in the transportation of the tiger skin,” he added.
Admitting that habitats have been disturbed over the decades due to biotic pressures, including podu cultivation practice, forest officials denied a lack of monitoring, surveillance and coordination at the ground level.
“Our foot patrolling staff look out for pug marks and install camera traps wherever one is found. Tiger movement is monitored and shared with other officials so that they too can take stock of the situation in their jurisdictions,” said M Ram Mohan, Forest Range Officer, Mulugu.
The frequent arrests, said DFO Shetty, show that authorities are vigilant in preventing such crimes. He said the department has been focused on strengthening wildlife protection measures and enhanced surveillance.
“It is good that we have been able to seize the tiger skin in Mulugu itself, as soon as it entered our state,” he said. Meanwhile, the police superintendent added that intelligence is being gathered, joint raids with the Forest department are being regularly conducted in the district apart from creating awareness among tribals to desist from hunting.