BHUBANESWAR: Hunters struck in Similipal yet again where at least four elephants have been found killed. Park officials detected decomposed remains of one and burnt carcasses of three other jumbos on Sunday.
A probe team, led by Deputy Director of Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) Bikash Kumar Das, has been formed. The role of local wildlife staff in suppressing the matter is suspected.
All the four elephants were found poached in Nuwana South Range. In 2009, three elephants had been hunted in the same range. Park officials suspect the poachings took place at least three weeks ago. The decomposed carcass was that of a baby elephant, while the details of the rest three are yet to be ascertained.
What is alarming though is the role of forest officials in covering up the deaths. The burnt carcasses suggested that the local staff may have tried to destroy evidence.
Sources said Field Director Anup Kumar Nayak was away on a mid-career training when the incident took place. After his return, Nayak, on a tip-off, sent members of a voluntary organisation, along with an independent staff, to ascertain the deaths.
All the killings took place near a river reinforcing the suspicion that the jumbos have been poisoned. “The jumbos may not have been the original targets, but became victims of the poisoning at the water hole,” the sources said.
Immediately after the matter came to light, the STR authorities issued an order deploying their forest guards and protection assistants (PAs) to monitor the salt licks across the tiger reserve, the core area of which spans across 1,100 sq km. There are over 300 salt licks in STR and the park management has asked all 75 forest guards and about 350 PAs to keep a watch on these points on a daily basis.
After Maoists struck in the tiger habitat three years ago, destroying offices and infrastructure, large scale poaching had been reported. A haven for the elephants, at least 20 jumbos have been allegedly killed in the area since then. Last year too, three poachings were detected and the kingpin was arrested.