Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lion poaching continues in Gir: foresters bust gang of 25

Lion poaching continues in Gir: foresters bust gang of 25
DNA By Jumana Shah

In the first reported incident of its kind since the lion poaching incidents of May 2007, a gang of suspected poachers comprising about 25 tribals from Karnataka, was busted in Kodinar, Gir (west), late on Monday night.

The tribals were caught with five bags full of different lion body parts, Rs60,000 in cash and some sharp weapons. No carcass of lion has been discovered yet, but foresters believe these tribals to be "most probably poachers".

A renowned big cat expert, refusing to be quoted, said five bags of lion body parts would mean more than five animals had been killed. "On the basis of past experience, I can say that the poachers must have chopped up the entire body of the beasts so that the carcasses, which let off a sharp stink, were not discovered and no alarm was raised," he added.

The forest department officials were tipped off by a local activist, Dinesh Goswami, who came across a woman selling what was purportedly a lion nail for Rs3,000 in Sutrapada bazaar.

When he enquired a little, the woman got scared and fled to her hideout in Kodinar. As he followed her there, he saw a group of several tents hidden in the forest thickets.

He immediately alerted the forest officials who cordoned off the area and apprehended the tribals late in the night (after 11.00 pm) on Monday.

"They are a tribe of nomads from Simoga district in Karnataka," said Ramesh Katara, division conservator of forests. "It looks like they have killed animals; we found lion skins, hair, bones, claws, teeth, etc, in the bags. We believe they have hidden weapons close to their hideout. We hope to find that out during the questioning. It is too soon to tell whether they are hardened criminals, part of an international gang or petty poachers." Katara was part of the team that raided the hideout of the gang.

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