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Ivory haul in forest

Bhubaneswar, Oct. 13: The safety of animals in Orissa’s Simlipal forest has come under the scanner again with wildlife authorities seizing eight pieces of ivory from four villagers.

The recovery was made in the Phansore village area of Lulung, on the southeastern flank of the sanctuary, yesterday. The ivory pieces weighed 5.2 kg.

Wildlife officials last week recovered the skeleton of a tusker from the sanctuary. Sources said the officials also seized a hacksaw from the arrested villagers. The ivory, they claimed, would sell for Rs 50,000 locally and could fetch over a lakh in the international market.

The tiger reserve inside the sanctuary has been in the news ever since researchers from Dehra Dun’s Wildlife Institute of India challenged the government’s claim on the population of the big cats.

A senior official of the sanctuary said on condition of anonymity that the villagers killed a couple of elephants aged between 12 and 15 years. He admitted that poaching had reared its head again but insisted that the deaths were meant to “malign the name of sanctuary in the wake of media reports”.

Officials said the four arrested villagers have been booked under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

“The tusker population is under pressure because of rampant poaching. According to some estimates, less than 1,200 tuskers are left in India due to poaching,” said Wildlife Trust of India’s Ashok Kumar, who has been at the forefront of the fight against poaching and illegal trade of forest goods for over two decades.

“Wild elephants in India are endangered because of poaching and the state-level forest officials are often inadequately equipped to deal with the menace,” he held.

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