Odisha: No elephant poaching case ended in conviction in 10 years
March 15, 2023
Odisha reported as many as 39 cases of poaching in ten years, in which
around 50 persons were arrested and chargesheeted, according to the
officials. However, none of the poachers arrested for killing elephants in
Odisha has been convicted. This is reflection of an exceedingly dismal
track record of enforcement of the Wildlife Act.
If the Forest and Environment Minister Pradip Kumar Amat’s reply in the
State Assembly on Tuesday is any indication, the state, which is home to
1,976 elephants, 39 cases of poaching were reported in ten years.
However, conservationists differ on the government’s figure. Their
contention is that not even a single case has ended in a conviction for
more than three decades.
“Not a single poacher or ivory trader has been convicted for the last 33
years. There is a minimum of three-year jail term and a maximum of
seven-year imprisonment for killing any elephant since the pachyderm is
protected under Schedule-1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Lack of
prosecution emboldens the poachers to continue with their killing spree,”
said conservationist Biswajit Mohanty.
Poor prosecution rate has, of late, driven the poachers to embark on a
killing spree. Since 2022, as many as 11 elephants have been killed by
miscreants in the forests of the state, he said.
Because of slack surveillance, watch and vigil by forest personnel, the
wild animals in general, and elephants in particular, are becoming soft
target of organised poaching rackets active in different parts of the
State. The population of wild animals, including elephants, is fast
declining as the enforcement agencies have turned a blind eye to the
systematic decimation of the mute animals.
Odisha elephants live a life fraught with dangers all the time due to
poaching, poisoning, electrocutions, train accidents. The tuskers are
always hounded by the forest squads. While the Supreme Court has banned
chasing elephants, the order evokes scant regard in the authorities
concerned, he said.
Death of 784 elephants has been reported in Odisha in a span of 10 years.
Accidents, disease, poisoning by poachers and electrocution were some of
the reasons for the elephant deaths in the state, Forest, Environment and
Climate Change Minister P K Amat said in the Odisha Assembly on Tuesday.
The man-elephant conflict has resulted in 925 human fatalities as well and
attacks by the pachyderm causing permanent disability in 212 people in the
state between 2012 and 2022. A highest number of 139 people were killed in
elephant attacks in 2020-21, the minister added.