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Problems of identification of camera-trapped tigers
Indian Wildlife - challenges in the new millennium
The greying of India
On the road to extinction
A Tribute to Rumbha - the elephant  
State development project threatens state bird - Sarus
Shahtoosh ban gains momentum worldwide
The road to disaster
Killing nilgais in the name of crop protection
Warring NGO's may spell doom for the tiger
Where have all the sparrows gone?
Cuckoos that fly out of crows' nests
Corbett park woes continue to mount
A question on post mortem examinations in the wild
Is it time to 'cry wolf' again?
Lifting of US sanctions may boost wildlife conservation
Migratory waterfowl may be hit by war in Afghanistan
UP wetlands to provide improved habitat to waterfowl
Anthrax as a potent wildlife killer
Man-elephant conflict takes heavy toll
Demoiselle cranes fly to safety in India
How long lasting are conservation victories
Fake tiger skins : a knotty disguise
Who cares for the wild here anyway?
A tribute to Charger - the long living tiger
Draining of wetlands threatening wildlife
Wildlife management needs rapid response units
Dudhwa loses another tiger
Indian Wildlife Board meets after five years

Hindustan Times, Lucknow | September 5, 2001


Corbett park woes continue to mount


Last week’s deadly attack by suspected poachers, which took the life of a Deputy Range Officer, and left three other forest guards shot and injured, has added a serious dimension to the escalating threat facing both the wildlife and staff of Corbett Tiger Reserve. Prior to this blatant attack on the staff of the tiger reserve, the poachers’ depredations had been targeting the predominant wildlife species, with elephants being in sharp focus during recent times. But the tragic turn of events in this particular incident are stark indicators that poaching gangs and forest mafia in Uttaranchal have now become so confident and cocksure about their immunity that they would not hesitate to carry out even a frontal attack on forest guards who try to counter their nefarious designs.

The genesis for this heightened disregard for the law among these criminals is not far to seek. Recent events of elephant poaching in the park, and the subsequent failure of enforcement agencies to make any worthwhile investigations or arrests, could well be the raison d’etre for the present set of poachers to act with such impunity.

Readers may recall that this year started on a dismal note for Corbett, with as many as six tuskers being expertly killed by a poaching gang operating within the core areas of the park. If recent memory serves one right, there had never been such a concerted onslaught of elephant poaching anywhere in India, as was mounted on the hapless wild elephants of Corbett Tiger Reserve during January & February this year. The modus operandi, and the rapidity with which the poachers were able to strike at elephants deep within the reserve, was proof enough that they were quite skilled in their gruesome craft. They undoubtedly had a clear lay of the terrain as well as the requisite firepower, since it took them less than three hours to shoot an elephant, follow its death trail, and then hack away its tusks.

It all started in October 2000 when one elephant was killed near Gairal, in the northern part of the Reserve. No one took that incident as the precursor of the carnage that was to follow. Taking a cue from the lack of any worthwhile enforcement, the poachers struck again in the last week of December 2000, killing two male elephants in quick succession - one in the Jhirna range and the other near Bijrani. They then followed it up by killing three more tuskers within the first ten days of February.

Unfortunately, the poachers were not countered with any successful enforcement measures. Although the park was closed to visitors and a huge combing operation launched, not a single poacher could be nabbed. In the initial confusion, even the method employed in killing the elephants was not properly established. This was obvious in media reports, where the cause of the pachyderms’ death was ascribed to ingestion of ‘nails & shrapnel’ reportedly fed by the poachers to the elephants concealed in balls of wheat flour laced with jaggery. One wondered even at that time how an intelligent and ‘masticating’ animal like the elephant could be fed with such a ‘loaded’ meal, however enticingly it may have been camouflaged. But the reports were graphic in their description of shrapnel found in the elephants’ dung, and blood trails on the forest paths, caused by rectal bleeding of the unfortunate animals whose intestines were all cut up presumably by the hardware they had eaten. Other possible causes – like poison or gun, were either not looked for, or even considered.

It was only the postmortem examination of the latter victims which helped in ascertaining that the death blow was delivered by a poisoned steel rod approximately 7 cm long, shaped like a file fixed in a wooden base. Fired from a muzzle-loading gun, the metal rod generated enough velocity to penetrate the muscle tissues. The elephants fled on being hit, but the debilitating effects of the poison ensured that they did not make much ground before dying. The poachers followed and hacked away at the face after cutting away the trunk, to extract every inch of the tusks from their credit: Nirmal Ghosh

I am sure that this gruesome photograph of a gentle forest giant, killed and maimed by poachers just for a few kilos of ivory, will bring out in stark detail, the horror and vileness which is being perpetrated on our wildlife by poachers all over the country. If it helps to motivate even a single member of the services, the judiciary or the public at large to join the fight to save our last remaining forests and wildlife, this elephant may not have died in vain.