With steady increase in clientele, gangs have started operating in many parts of State
An average guar (Indian bison) weighs around 1,500 kg and the game meat has a lucrative inter-State market. Since the consumer demand is always high, a single hunting trip can easily fetch anything from ₹10 lakh.
While a sambar deer requires much less time and effort, monitor lizards guarantee most exorbitant rates. Apart from restaurants and bars, there has been a steady increase in the urban clientele and poaching gangs, which include trained hunters, have started operating in many parts of the State. Along with a range of small mammals, maximum meat yielding species such as gaurs and sambars are targeted for game cuisine.
According to officials, the rackets operate out of the vast estates bordering forests. “Ungulates often stray outside deep forest and it’s easy for poachers to identify their regular grazing grounds. With some local support they stay in abandoned buildings and conduct lightning-fast operations. An experienced gang can easily pull off an operation within five to six hours,” says an official.
The poachers use everything from traditional snares to guns while hunting patterns and techniques differ from gang to gang. “There are some poachers who prefer the less-risky bushmeat and there are some others who always go for large animals. They get prior orders and gangs market the meat through their loyal network. They even conduct auctions through WhatsApp and Telegram depending on the rarity and market value of the meat. They have found some ways to stealthy transport it and despite stringent laws, it reaches customers.”
Reportedly, there are gangs that stay inside the forest for long periods of time and return with large hauls. But officials say it is nearly impossible for poachers to camp inside any reserve forest and operate. “We have anti-poaching camp sheds in several interior areas with hardly any road access. Each unit covers a particular area and we also have specific protection plans. We will be able to spot them easily.”
The official says the gangs include sharpshooters from other States and they usually hide the firearms in the forest. “Most will have some kind of criminal background and we recently arrested a Tamil Nadu resident accused in a murder case. They come from some border villages and focus on game meat and carry out these high-speed operations. Right now, there is an evident dip in wildlife trade involving animal parts, but illegal game hunting continues in several forest divisions,” he adds.
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