Friday, April 06, 2007

Where have five more lions gone?


CID (crime), forest department tasked to handle poaching cases, albeit separately 

Ahmedabad News Line- Hiral Dave & S H Bukhari


Rajkot\Junagadh, April 3 Even as the arrests made by the police in connection with the Gir poaching cases turned out to be a false alarm, there is a buzz in the forest department about five more lions gone missing from the Babaria Forest Range area, where the two poaching incidents occurred last month.


The Babaria Range was home to a total of 29 big cats. A census done at the range in the wake of the killings put the number at 18. So what is worrying everyone now is if 6 lions have been killed and only 18 found in the census, then where are the other 5 of the total 29 lions? The forest department expressed the possibility that those lions might have moved to another area.

“Lions keep wandering. So it’s difficult to say that some lions have gone missing. Till we do not come across any evidence of further killing, it cannot be said that more lions could have been killed,” said Conservator of Forest (wildlife) Bharat Pathak


But with little coming out of the arrests made on Monday and Tuesday, no one is sure what is happening.


On Tuesday, the police arrested one more person in connection with the two poaching incidents that occurred in Babaria range of Gir forest, but it appears to be much ado about nothing.


Haji Abdul Rehman Makarani (44) and Mohammed Makarani (41) were arrested from Babaria village in the last 48 hours, but were booked under the provision of the Bombay Police Act under Section 135 for being in possession of a sword and a big knife. A local court in Una town released the duo on bail on Tuesday.


The arrested duo are cousins and residents of the same Babaria village where the poaching occurred. Both even after sustained interrogation by the police and the forest department did not have much to say. When contacted, Pathak said nothing concrete had emerged and the investigating agency (CID-Crime) would declare the details, if any at all. Police sources also said that no useful information could be extracted from the arrested duo.


While it has poured cold water over the investigation, questions are being raised about the manner in which the investigation is progressing.


The CID(crime) has been entrusted with the investigation in connection with the poaching discovered on March 3, while it’s the forest department that has been following the second case of killings of the other 3 lions, that surfaced on March 30. Two similar incidents, both from Babaria range and with apparently similar modus operandi, but different agencies investigating them.


When contacted, a senior CID official said, “Nothing can be said about the modus-operandi yet. The case is on and the department has been trying to find the clues.”


But the forest department, which is an expert in handling such cases, expressed the possibility of the modus-operandi being the same. “It seems that the modus-operandi was same,” said Conservator of Forest Bharat Pathak.


Both the forest and CID officials on condition of anonymity said for better results there should be one agency to look into both the cases.


“Though information can be shared at any time, but it would have been better if a single agency had been working on it,” said a forest department official.


The CID on the other hand is finding it difficult to gather clues in the absence of a solid network of sources.

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