Elephant murder outs gun menace

Palamau Tiger Reserve authorities today sent a villager and his son to jail for allegedly gunning down the grown tusker on October 12 and patted themselves on their back for solving the case fast, but the entire incident has thrown up alarming questions on how many villagers near the sanctuary keep firearms and how easily endangered species can get killed.

By A.S.R.P. Mukesh in Ranchi
  • Published 15.10.17
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Foresters display the killed elephant's tusk and rifles before the media in Betla on Saturday. Telegraph picture

Ranchi, Oct. 14: Palamau Tiger Reserve authorities today sent a villager and his son to jail for allegedly gunning down the grown tusker on October 12 and patted themselves on their back for solving the case fast, but the entire incident has thrown up alarming questions on how many villagers near the sanctuary keep firearms and how easily endangered species can get killed.

There are no less than 300 people in nine villages on the supposedly 'inviolate' core area of 1,124sqkm animal reserve spread across parts of Latehar and Palamau, with villagers banned from keeping firearms under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

But, PTR authorities recovered two country-made rifles, a used bullet and five "old" horns of deer from the possession of villager Bunsidhar Khalkho and his son Rifel, residents of core area village Lukukhand, who were sent to Latehar divisional jail today.

Authorities said the duo have accepted they shot the elephant as it was raiding their maize field for three days. Villagers Kamal Oraon, Kameshwar Oraon and Phaglu Oraon, who were also interrogated in the case, agreed to become witnesses.

Betla range officer Nathuni Singh, under whose jurisdiction the dead elephant was found caked in mud in the core area of the reserve on October 12, stressed it was not poaching but retaliatory killing by the farmer father-son duo.

Vet Dr Chandan Govind Deo who performed the autopsy yesterday and took out a bullet from the elephant's head, added today he found another gunshot wound on the animal's right hind leg hidden by mud. The second bullet could not be traced, he said.

While Palamau foresters, including PTR director M.P. Singh called the media to inform them about the prompt arrests, forest officials in Ranchi questioned why firearms were at all available within the sanctuary/reserve area.

"Recovery of these desi guns indicates many more weapons would be available with people living within the tiger reserve's area. I wonder if PTR authorities have any data on this. A survey should be conducted immediately," an Indian Forest Services officer in Ranchi said.