The seized cycles at PTR office in Betla on Tuesday. Telegraph picture
Ranchi, Dec. 3: Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR) officials arrested one for felling trees and seized 12 bicycles and 72 logs from the protected area during an early morning raid today, following a tip-off about illegal trespassing.
The one arrested was identified as Ram Lakhan Ram, a resident of Latehar region. Sources said Ram was a part of an organised jungle mafia operating in Satbarwa of the reserve area.
Also, forest officials believed that these timber smugglers might have deep links with cross border poaching groups as well.
The incident occurred in Hehegara range of the reserve that falls in Chungu police station area.
Divisional forest officer (core) of the tiger reserve Premjit Anand said over 40 people on around 35 cycles entered the reserve in two different groups through different routes. They were equipped with axe, knives, nets among other accessories.
“A local team of forest watchers first rushed to the spot. On reaching the spot, they realised that over 40 smugglers had entered the forests and asked for reinforcement. Soon, a bigger team was sent, leading to the arrest and seizure,” said Anand.
He added that most of the smugglers took the advantage of darkness and managed to flee the spot, leaving their cycles and wood logs behind.
Initially, the smugglers tried to scare away the forest officials. “They first launched an attack on us with their axe and knives, But, with the help of local police, our men managed to nab one,” said another official not willing to be named.
Ram has been booked under various sections of the forest act, include unlawfully entering inside the protected area, damaging forest property among others.
Anand said during interrogations, Ram revealed the names of around 30 people of the group. Some of them were former BSF personnel.
“Wood smuggling is rampant across the reserve area, primarily on the fringes leading to Latehar corridor. We have been conducting raids for the past two months but this was one of the major ones. We have also come to know about a group in Satbarwa, which will be busted soon,” he said.