Dehra Dun: Uptill now it was known that perhaps only tigers and leopards are on the hit list of poachers as their organs and skins fetch a high price in the international markets, but the recovery of 67 kgs of ivory from three persons has led to fears that even pachyderms are not being spared in the forests of Uttarakhand.
In a joint effort by teams of the special task force (STF) and special operation group (SOG) of the police, the three persons, who reportedly have links with international smugglers were arrested. The two tusks had been cut into halves with one measuring about a metre and the other about half a metre indicate that the elephants were big.
Official sources said that a member of the STF, on the look out for poachers and smugglers of animal organs, was in touch with a suspect, D S Dangwal of Dharchulla in Pithoragarh district as a buyer looking for animal organs. From him he learnt that a resident of Kotdwara had tusks that he was to deliver at a hotel on Thursday. A trap was laid.
The vehicle in which the three smugglers were travelling was stopped and the ivory recovered and an electronic weighing meter to weigh the ivory was also found in the car. The total weight of the ivory was reported to be 67 kgs, which was worth crores in the international market. The police and forest department is now interrogating the accused regarding the source of the tusks.
Official sources admitted that on an average about 25 kgs of ivory is recovered from smugglers every year, which could just be the tip of the proverbial iceberg, as lots more of the material could be smuggled without being caught. But despite the catches, it had never actually been known where the elephants whose tusks were taken out were killed, they claimed.
They said that it is quite evident that elephants are being killed and their bodies probably being buried to wipe out the evidence because from 2008 onwards as much as 124 kgs of ivory has been recovered, and the amount that got away is anybody’s guess. We are now looking forward to knowing where and how the pachyderms are being killed, they maintained.
Official sources that the number of elephants is going down over the years in Uttarakhand, which could probably be because of the fact that their grazing space is going down with encroachments coming up in forests and corridors which the pachyderms used for migrating from one forest division to another in search of fodder.
They said that it was because of their being confined to small forest pockets that the elephant herds were finding it hard to meet their fodder needs, forcing them to venture into fields in villages in search of food, which had heightened the man-animal conflict in the region, to which no plausible solution appeared in sight at least I n the near future.
Official sources said that during the last 12 years as many as 218 elephants had died. Of these, 118 are said to have died of natural reasons, 83 due to accidents, 15 have fallen down to poachers and two were killed after they had been declared as rogues.