Meera Bhardwaj

In one of the biggest seizures of wildlife parts in Karnataka on Friday, the MM Hills Wildlife Division has caught big time hunters and wildlife traders in Chamarajanagar district. A group of highly skilled hunters/traders, they were into snaring, killing, skinning, drying and processing of wildlife parts like skin, bones, nails and claws of big carnivores and herbivores.

The four arrested from Hanur taluk include – Mahadev (28) and Kumar (20) from Nellikatri village, Mahadev (22) and Rangaswamy (23) from Gombegallu village and all of them have been booked under the Wildlife Protection Act.

Forest officials who arrested these four local people said they have been carrying out illegal activities in MM Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and BRT Tiger Reserve for the last few years. This gang, having a big network, had connections to agents and customers and had snared tigers, leopards, spotted deer, sambar, barking deer, wild dogs and flying squirrels.

The seizures included two skins of spotted deer, barking deer, flying squirrel and wild dog. Further, two claws of leopard and a complete set of tiger bones and nails too were recovered. This tiger which was snared two years back – they had broken its lower jaw with a rod. These local hunters live in enclosures of protected areas and have knowledge of how to dry the skin of wildlife, process the bones and also how to preserve the wildlife parts. Since they were living in forests, they had unlimited access to forests especially when they went around gathering honey or other forest produce. It was during such a time, they gathered information of the presence of a wildlife species in a specific area.

Speaking to Green Minute, DCF MM Hills Wildlife Division Yedukondalu V said, “In recent times, this is one of the biggest catches of wildlife parts in the state. Their operating area was MM Hills and BRT forests. They were involved in snaring the smallest animal like flying squirrels to big carnivores like adult tigers. They knew every method of processing and preserving wildlife parts in their homes itself. When a customer was identified, they used to sell the skins, bones or nails or claws directly.”

All the curing work of wildlife parts was done at home or estates where they used to store after snaring and it shows how adept and professional they were. The DCF added, “The customers were directly involved with the purchase of wildlife parts. We had received information from local sources and intelligence from the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau in catching these offenders. There are some more people involved – some of them are their relatives and there will be three more arrests.”