Wildlife crimes surge, make Karnataka a hub again (Bengaluru)
Bosky Khanna, The New Indian Express
November 23, 2021
52-two rose-ringed parakeets were seized by the police in Bengaluru on
March 29 and sacks filled with nearly 50 monkeys, most of them dead, were
found dumped on the main road in Hassan on July 28. In a span of three
days, on November 13 and 16, 571 star tortoises were found abandoned at two
different bus stands in Bengaluru.
These are just some of the major crimes involving wildlife that have been
reported in Karnataka, which is home to some of the best-maintained
sanctuaries in the country. The state had been witnessing a decline in such
crimes since early 2000s when it had peaked during the heydays of forest
brigand Veerappan, who was slain in October 2005. But worryingly, there has
been a surge in recent times and it is being blamed on poor investigation
and lack of coordination among different agencies.
As per data, which is still being compiled, the forest vigilance wing alone
has booked 565 wildlife crime and timber cases this year. Last year, it was
578, while the year before that it was 778. Forest and police officials
fear that the numbers may only go up when the final data sheet comes out.
The Covid pandemic, related job loss, inflation, demand for quick money,
myths, traditional medicine, lack of patience, rising man-animal conflicts
and even adrenaline rush are being cited as reasons for wildlife crimes,
which is the second largest illegal trade globally after narcotics,
wildlife experts told TNIE.
Conservationists and members of Traffic, a leading NGO working on wildlife
trade along with the state government, are documenting each case and
preparing a report on the rising trends. Higher frequency and more number
of interceptions and catches by forest officials point to a surge in
wildlife crimes. Such cases include seizure of 9 kg of pangolin scales on
October 22, the arrest of three poachers from Chikkaballapur on November 16
for slaughtering a deer for venison (deer meat), and the recovery of 20
pairs of antlers or deer horns on November 18 by Bengaluru police.
What is disturbing is that wildlife crimes are high even in
better-protected tiger reserves and surrounding areas. In September in
Bandipur Tiger Reserve, forest officials nabbed poachers for killing a
tiger. On November 18, poachers were caught after killing a deer in
Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, while on June 30, poachers were nabbed with
weapons at the same reserve.
Incidents of elephant electrocution too are rising. Conservationists
suspect that it is because of an increase in demand for black beads
(passion beads made from elephant skin after drying and shaping to make
wristbands and necklaces of red-coloured beads). In Kodagu, four cases were
reported in August alone, while another incident was reported from
Chikkamagaluru on November 13.
Experts, forest and police officials are alarmed by the sudden rise and are
under pressure to assess the new wildlife crime trends and to keep a close
watch on the rising cases. “If a close analysis is done, a rough assessment
can be made of what is trending and what needs to be done. For example, in
African countries and in Myanmar, cases of Blood Beads have been found.
But no such incidents have been reported in Karnataka or any other South
Indian states where the elephant population and man-animal conflicts are
high. It cannot be ruled out too, as cases of elephant poaching and deaths
are occurring. But cases of elephant tail hair being used in making rings
and necklaces are not coming to light. If you observe temple and even zoo
elephants closely, one sees the difference in their tail hair, compared to
wild ones. This shows cases are happening, but not reported,” said a
There are also many incidents of smaller herbivores and carnivores,
especially pangolins, black-naped hare and other animals, being poached. In
September, the Bengaluru police arrested two people with 11 kg of ambergris
(a solid waxy substance originating in the intestine of the sperm whale, a
protected species). Ambergris is highly valued because of its rarity and
demand in the perfume-making industry. In August, the Mysuru police
recovered 8.25 kg of ambergris and arrested three people. A similar case
was reported in Honnavar three months ago.