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Proof of poaching in headless tusker

Kodal Basti Beat (Alipurduar), Feb. 4: Poachers left the forest department a grisly gift less than a kilometre from the place where officials and ministers promised four months ago to end the mindless slaughter of animals.

The headless carcass of an elephant, a mature bull standing 10 feet at the shoulder, was discovered by forest staff last evening a stone's throw from the Kodal Basti beat office.

The forest department had, while celebrating Wildlife Week last October, promised to end poaching while torching piles of seized animal parts on the bank of the Torsa.

Forest minister Jogesh Barman had even promised to set up a 'commemorative plaque' at the site of the bonfire, which reduced 62 kg of ivory, six tiger skins, 40 leopard pelts, 13 kg of rhino horn and over 400 other hides and antlers to ashes. The items had been seized between 1974 and 2004.

Pradip Chakraborty, the Kalchini circle inspector, and Basudev Sarkar, the inspector-in-charge of Jaigaon police station, today rushed to the spot after being informed of the poaching incident.

Preliminary investigation has revealed that the poachers shot at the elephant around Tuesday ' there was a bullet wound on the animal's right flank ' and followed it for a couple of days till, weakened by the loss of blood, it collapsed and died. Experts said that given the size of the animal, each of its tusks could have been around four feet.

'We have ordered a probe into why the body of the animal was not spotted earlier and how no one saw the poachers hacking off its head. It must have taken at least five hours,' said Kalyan Das, the Cooch Behar divisional forest officer.

The incident in a relatively poacher-free part of the forest has woken up officers, who said the guards must have been 'busy patrolling the more vulnerable parts'.

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