In a well-planned operation which involved filmy chases and high-end cars, Karnataka forest officials apprehended a group of offenders from Bhatkal in Uttar Kannada district on NH-66. They had killed an Indian Gaur and were transporting its meat for distribution and consumption. This is a big catch for the forest department as this is a main group of people who go hunting for gaurs and sambars as a hobby.
The hunting and killing of Indian Gaur, a Schedule-II animal under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is a non-bailable offence and attracts a punishment of three years plus fine, only if imposed. Two offenders who were arrested have been remanded to judicial custody for 14 days. However, Rauf supposed to be the main offender is absconding. The other two held are – Navid Anjum Sanavulla Shek (32), Heble village, Bhatkal taluk and Jairuddin Ali Ahmed (44), Basrur, Kundapur taluk, Udupi district.
This group of four – fond of hunting as a hobby and relishing gaur meat were chased and arrested after a lot of efforts with help from police. With a tip off received, a forest team comprising Range Forest Officer Savitha Devadiga and other staff chased the group from one post to another without giving them a chance to escape. The offenders hit the police barricade at the check post but managed to escape, however, forest staff following them neck to neck, chased the hunters who were transporting the meat in a high-end car – Chevrolet Extreme. Although the offenders made all out efforts to escape and hide by various methods, they were caught by forest officials in true filmi style.
Speaking to Green Minute, Ganapathi K, DCF Honnavar said, “Our staff were keeping a watch as per information in the last few months. It all started on Monday morning (22nd) when this group of four transporting gaur meat were caught after they tried to evade and run at three places. However, Rauf, the owner of the car – the main person – is absconding. We are searching for him. Probe is going on with investigators checking their call records…”
The DCF added, “Our initial probe has revealed that they were hunting/shooting wildlife for hobby and relished both Sambar and Gaur meat. The group of four were close friends and hailed from rich families. And gaur hunting being easy, no sharp shooting is necessary. They had killed and collected about 150-200 kg of meat for consumption and distribution to 15-20 homes. This is the second attempt of hunting in the last 1.5 years with the first one being Sambar poaching. We had kept an eye on some people as they are known to hunt during special occasions.”
The department has installed almost 25-30 CCTV cameras on this road (NH-66 from Mangaluru-Goa) and therefore, the CCTV footage of the entire operation including the chase is available. This is a tourist area and many high-end cars traverse on this section from Siddapura to Mavingundi via Gersoppa and usually tourists in their vehicles are not checked and with heavy traffic, it is not an easy task.
THE INDIAN GAURS
Hunting of large herbivores like gaurs is a big loss for primary predators like tigers, leopards, crocodiles as also secondary predators like fox, dholes, hyena and vultures as they survive at least for 10-15 days feeding on gaur meat. Gaur is native to South Asia and South East Asia and is on the IUCN Red List where it is categorized as Vulnerable species.
One of the largest bovine species, its population has been steadily declining and is extinct in some countries. They are strong and massively built with prominent horns rising from the sides of the head and curving upwards. The lower part of their legs is pure white or tan and looks as if they are wearing socks. It has a muscular hump with males being one fourth larger and heavier than females.
On an average, male gaurs in India weigh about 840 kg while females about 700 kg. They are largely confined to evergreen, semi-evergreen and moist deciduous forests while largely found to be preferring hilly terrains. The Western Ghats are one of their most extensive extant strongholds of Gaur in southern parts of India. Depending on the level of human disturbance, gaurs have been found to be timid and shy but also bold and aggressive.