Thursday, March 08, 2007

Intl gang involved in poaching (of Asiatic Lions)?

Intl gang involved in poaching?

Source: Times of India Print Edition Date 8th March 8, 2007, By Himanshu Kaushik


Rajkot: The detection of mutilated carcasses of three lionesses, whose claws, bones, skulls and some body parts were taken away by poachers in Gir sanctuary last week, has sent alarm bells ringing in the forest department.


Officials do not rule out the possibility of an international gang being involved in poaching. They said that the bones of lions are not used in any medicine, but in international market, it can be mixed with powdered tiger bones and sold. A lion claw in the local market is available for 10,000, which is worn around the neck to ward off evil spirits. Officials, who are aware of the demand for claws, said that this is the first incident where bones were also taken away by poachers. In the earlier incidents of poaching involving local gangs, it was only the claws which went missing. The alarm bells had started ringing much earlier when a gang  of poachers from Madhya Pradesh was caught.


What has got the officials most worried is that big cats are venturing out of the Gir sanctuary and are now found up to Palitana in Bhavnagar. Former principal chief conservator of forest G A Patel said that the lions have formed satellite habitats away from the sanctuary. This is a cause of concern for officials as they do not have adequate staff and the existing staff is not paid as per their duty hours. He said that the government needs to increase the area of Gir sanctuary. The government has made announcement in the Assembly that it is actively considering the proposal to increase the protected area.


Principal chief conservator of forest M L Sharma, when contacted, did not rule out the involvement of any national or international gang. He said, “We are exploring all the possibilities to catch the culprits and we have teams specially investigating the case.”


Additional principal chief conservator of forest Pradeep khanna was not available for comments. Sources said that Khanna was in Junagadh along with other officials investigating the case.


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