Tuesday, March 13, 2007

An insider hand in glove with Gir poachers?

Ahmedabad Newsline Net Edition  By Sreenivas Janyala

Date 12-3-2007



Forest officials believe so, but CID officials probing the case feel it is too early to comment


Ahmedabad, March 12: IS it an inside job? That is what the forest department seems to think so in the lion poaching cases. The CID (Crime) which has been entrusted with investigation, a couple of days ago, is mum on the issue. Investigating officers feel it is too early to comment. But, they have picked out at least a dozen locals, and two beat guards of Babaria range, who have been suspended, for questioning.


The obvious clues with the forest department as well as CID crime indicate a few things:


Only locals know the presence of ‘Marsuka na kundi’ a water hole in the Babaria range, where the killings of two lionesses and a cub took place around March 1. Throughout the day, this water hole is visited by wild animals and a few resident lions and lionesses. But this water hole is tucked away about 500 metres off the Babaria-Una road and a new comer cannot spot it.

* A few locals who also double up as guides know that the resident lion population is sighted near the water hole almost daily.

* None of the vehicles which passed through the check posts to enter the 5 kms forest road raise suspicion as registration numbers are all mostly local.



*e are two check posts on either side of the Babaria-Una road which passes through the forest — at Jakia on the Una side and at Jamvala towards Talala. But only the locals know that the Jamvala check post is in Revenue area and there are two other roads that take off from the forest road before the check post, which means any vehicle coming out of the forest area can go in any direction to avoid the check post especially if it is loaded with 120 kgs of bones and claws of two lionesses and a cub.


Conservator of Forest (Junagadh) Bharat Pathak says, he is sure there was a man on duty at the Jakia check post and that he would have noticed any suspicious vehicle or its occupants. But Pathak is unsure if such a vehicle would have passed through the Jamvala check post because there are alternative roads from there.


“An operation of this scale could not have taken place without some local help. You cannot ignore facts like: the location chosen was perfect and, probably a local vehicle was used not to raise any suspicion. In both cases you need local help. I am keeping my fingers crossed. It could be an inside job with help from an outside gang also,’’ says Pathak.


Meanwhile, statements of at least a dozen people living in nearby areas have been taken by the forest department and CID so far in connection with this case. The forest department has suspended two forest guards in whose beat the poaching occurred. But, CID (Crime) IGP Keshav Kumar says, “It is too early to draw any conclusions.’’


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