Monday, April 21, 2008

Baheliyas actively involved in poaching of lions, says CID


Baheliyas actively involved in poaching of lions, says CID

Ahmedabad, April 20 The Baheliya community is “actively involved” in the poaching of Asiatic lions in the Gir sanctuary, the Gujarat CID has said.

In a letter to Junagadh Range IG Mohan Jha, CID (Crime) Officer Keshav Kumar has said: “Under the garb of selling traditional medicines and toys, this tribal community indulges in the poaching of wild animals.”

There are about 15,000 Baheliyas, basically from Katni from Madhya Pradesh, who are actively involved in poaching all over the country.

“They camp on the outskirts of the town and put up a tent along the roads and sell medicine and toys. The men go out in the forest during night to hunt animals and the women sell them. They travel mostly by trains and state transport buses to avoid police checking,” the letter said.

According to the letter, the poachers never divulge their real names and move around with pseudonyms like, ‘cycle-bhai,’ ‘motor-singh’ and ‘diesel-singh.’

After killing the animals, they bury the body parts underneath the central tent pole or the makeshift oven, or in the vicinity of the camp. Sometimes they are hidden on trees. They hide their poaching-tools in the ground within a radius of 500 to 1,000 metres from their tent, the letter said.

“The women hide cash inside their “ghaghras.” They also hide the cash and the wild animals inside the plaster, which may be covering the hand or the leg. In one case, Rs 1 lakh was hidden inside the plaster,” it said. “Even the children are expert bird-netters and can perfectly imitate the call of birds. If they are caught, they pretend to be beggars ignorant. But they are very much conversant with the legal rights and investigations and change their statements often. They often hide mobile phones with them and keep in touch with the gang members through these,” the letter added.

Though the state CID has arrested many members of the tribe, including the kingpin Sharkashlal, they are yet to recover any body parts of the poached lions.

There has been no incident of poaching since last April year in Gir, but the CID letter said the community returns when the heat of the police and forest patrolling dwindles.

P N Roychowdhary, former Principal Secretary (Forest and Environment) said, “The police have gathered evidence to establish that it is the same tribe of poachers who were responsible for the deaths of tigers in Sariska and other sanctuaries.”

Around eight lions were poached in different areas in and around the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary last March and April.

There is a huge demand for the bones and other body parts of lions in China while the claws of the big cats fetch around Rs 25,000 even in India, Forest Department sources said.

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