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An Update on the Spectre of Poaching in the Nagarhole National Park ( 18-6-2002)


The Hindu has published a moving  account of the ordeal of the tiger of Mastigudi, which lost its forelimb in a jaw trap setup by professional poachers inside the Nagarhole National Park two weeks ago. Excerpts from the poignant account penned by reporter K. Krishna Kumar in The Hindu, Bangalore edition dated 15th June 2002, are reproduced hereunder:-

The tiger which was operated upon.
-photo courtesy Deccan herald


Lord of the Jungle becomes an invalid

His stride was as majestic and awe-inspiring as his powerful roar that reverberated through the jungles of Nagarhole; but not any more.

The tiger, which was ensnared in a jaw trap set up by poachers in the Nagarahole National Park last month and subsequently rescued and shifted to the Mysore Zoo, has been reduced to a pitiable caricature of itself.

The mighty paw that choked its prey was dismembered by the jaw trap; in place of the powerful left fore leg is a stump of flesh that is barely visible; the gait has been lost. Reduced to three legs, the tiger struggles to balance its body and limps for a while only to stagger and sway to its sides.

The roar that evoked fear among its prey and other denizens of the jungle is subdued; for the pain is weighing heavily on it.

The tiger of Mastigudi is today a living testimony to human cruelty to animals. But there is another side to the tragic story. It is one of concern and compassion towards the plight of the hapless tiger. The combined efforts of the veterinarians from various departments, the zoo authorities, and the Forest Department to mitigate its pain; the tinge of sadness over the unfortunate incident, and the determination to save the tiger, all of which show that compassion is still a virtue among many. This is evident as veterinary doctors and surgeons attending on the injured tiger from Mastigudi operated upon it at the intensive care unit of the Mysore Zoo Hospital this morning. An X-Ray of the injured limb was taken and the surgeons decided to amputate a portion of the limb and stitch up the wounds and allow it to heal and dry. The team of veterinarians comprised Vasanth Shetty, Professor of Surgery, Veterinary College, Bangalore, L. Ranganath, Associate Professor of Surgery, Shadaksharamurthy, and the zoo veterinarians, Valandikar and Khadri, performed the two-hour operation.

The tiger was first tranquilised and shifted from the cage to the Intensive Care Unit. The tiger was securely tied to the bed and the injured portion was attended to. The surgeons decided to conserve the muscles of the forelimb and amputated the lower part of the shaft. Antibiotics were administered to control the spread of infection and painkillers were injected. Soon  after the operation, the tiger was shifted to the cage and it regained consciousness within minutes. But it remained in a state of stupor and was silent except for an occasional growl till the effect of the tranquilliser wore off.

Dr. Khadri and Dr. Shetty told presspersons that the tiger would recover in 10 days. There were no complications and the animal was healthy. Gangrene had not set in and hence the rot did not spread to other parts of the body.

The doctors said this was a major operation but by no means the first ever surgery on a large carnivore.

Dr. Khadri said the tiger gnawed at iron bars of the cage repeatedly in desperation to free itself and this was a natural behaviour with all wild animals when they were trapped.  In the process, the tiger broke its canines and injured its face.  But the doctors pointed out that it would not endanger the tigers life as the canines were used only to tear the flesh of the prey.  As its return to the wild was ruled out, the tiger would be fed with ready-to-eat meat in captivity and hence the absence of canines would not affect its life.

Poaching Incidents are becoming too frequent in the state

Poaching of tigers, leopards, elephants and sloth bears seems to be becoming a regular affair in the National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries across Katnataka. In Feb 2002, two tigers were done to death by poachers near the Bhadra Tiger reserve; while a male tiger was snared and strangulated using a gear wire, another female was shot dead using a muzzle loader. The Editorial of Deccan Herald (7th Feb 2002) had called these killings as a matter of deep anguish not just to the lovers of wildlife. The editorial read as follows:-

Tiger tragedy

The brutal killing of two tigers in Chikmagalur District that too within a short span of a fortnight is a matter of deep anguish not just for lovers of wildlife. But what actually heightens the poignancy of the tragedy is the suspicion, not without good ground, of the forest department officials that both the tigers fell to the bullets of the poachers with ace marksmanship. The forest department authorities have not only tumbled upon the material to buttress their deduction as regards the cause of the death but also on the carcass of another male tiger in the vicinity. Now it appears that the findings of the autopsy corroborating their initial but intelligent inferences appears to be just a formality.




The authorities concerned must leave no stone unturned to trace the culprits and bring them to justice as expeditiously as possible. Meanwhile, considering the fast dwindling numbers of tigers (Karnataka has only 395 tigers according to the date made available to the state legislature in 1999), the need for making the people to realize the importance of protecting the species on the verge of virtual extinction can seldom be minimized. The state government should also examine the proposal for bringing in suitable amendments to the Wildlife Act, so that the victims of the wild animal havoc would get adequate compensation and the mode of securing such compensation is really hassle free. But foolproof enough to obviate any scope for its misuse. At the same time there should be no laxity in efforts to help these animals to lead normal life in their natural habitats.

Global Conservation Foundations plea to the PCCF (Wildlife)

Just a week earlier INCERT had investigated and reported the killing of a sloth bear, (Jan 29,2002), in the Huliurdurga Forests. Many national and international wildlife conservation organisations had urged the PCCF (Wildlife), Karnataka, to take stringent steps to curb the runaway poaching incidents in the state. The Global Conservation Foundation, in their letter (dt 7 FEB 2002) to the PCCF Wildlife, had demanded as under :-

This letter is to bring to your attention a case involving an unnatural death of schedule I animal- namely a sloth bear in Huliyur durga, Karntaka state, India, which was killed by poachers.

We have been informed that the local forest staff (forest guard Mr. E. Rangaiah and forester Mr. Obalaiah) instead of filing a FIR with the authorities and superiors, have been pressurising the Government Veterinary Surgeon Dr. Brahmadev, to issue a pre-dated post mortem certificate declaring the death as natural in order to close the case. This constitutes an illegal act. We have been informed that according to the local villagers, the forest staff allegedly removed the claws of the bear before burying the carcass at Huliyurdurga.

We request your good offices to investigate this case and other poaching incidents here and other forests of Karnataka. Reports indicate that shotguns, snares, nooses, explosives and traps to hunt tigers, leopards, foxes and other wildlife and birds. In Karnataka poachers are trapping sloth bears for their pelts and claws.

Our sincere thanks on behalf of international conservationists worldwide. Indias wild heritage is also part of the worlds biodiversity Heritage.

Best regards.

Alan Neilson, GCF, Washington.

Dr.Venkatesh with the sloth bear which was killed.


NGOs Clarion Calls to control poaching and smash the poachers network completely ignored

Two years earlier conservationists from Tumkur, Bandipur, Kanakapura, Bannerghatta, Nagarhole met at Bangalore and gave a graphic account of the ongoing activities such as illegal quarrying, poaching and felling of timber in the national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests. At the meeting, the conservationists said Every day at least three lorry loads of illegally chopped teak trees leave the forests of Nagarhole (Report dated 25-3-2000, Asian Age, Bangalore)

 For years the conservationists have been claiming, that poaching and trade in wildlife articles are increasing, in and around the national parks. But no palpable efforts are being made by the authorities to check these illegal activities. Incidentally members of INCERT, with the help of some wildlife enthusiasts, placed themselves at vantage points near the weekly sandy (on 21-8-2001) on the outskirts of the Bannerghatta National Park and  noticed eight persons carrying bags containing skins of several wild animals. Efforts were made to nab them all, but six poachers escaped in the melee and confusion. Only two of them could be nabbed and their bags were checked. The bags contained an astonishing array of animal skins that included the pelts of jackal, fox, sloth bear, spotted deer, jungle cat, toddy cat, civet cat, Malabar squirrel etc., all neatly folded and packed in the bags. (The Hindu 24-8-2001)

The forest officials did not make any efforts to interrogate the poachers and learn more about their modus operandi. They did not make any efforts to nab the other members of the gang. The culprits were merely handed over to the judicial authorities for further action.



High Court Directions Remain Un-implemented.

The regional news papers have been publishing vivid accounts after vivid accounts of poaching of wild animals with photographs. The High court of Karnataka, took cognizance of these escalating poaching incidents and directed the PCCF, Wildlife and the Police on 17-1-2000 to take suitable steps to prevent hunting of wildlife (in Writ Petition No 1394/2000). It is two years since the directions were given by the High Court, but the killings have not decreased, they have only increased.

Golden Opportunities Squandered

 The inertness on the part of the authorities, has resulted in a string of deaths, including the mutilation of the Mastigudi tiger, which could have been otherwise prevented by alert forest officials. The poacher from Bihar, who was arrested on 21st April 2002, by the Bangalore City Police, ought to have been interrogated by senior forest officials to unearth the network and learn about the whereabouts of his counterparts from north India, who had infiltrated the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries of the State. The Hindu report dated 23 April 2002, contained enough evidence that the north Indian professional poachers were in league with the locals:-

in the HINDU newspaper (April 23)
The Bangalore City Police on Monday arrested four members of a gang and
seized animal skins, a country-made pistol, and two cartridges from them. A
jackal was rescued from them.
One of the arrested is a native of Bihar. He is reported to have come to
Bangalore to sell the country-made pistol, which he had bought in Bihar.
The names of the arrested were given as Naiyappa (22) of Bhadrapura, Bidadi,
Raghava, alias Raghavendra (25) of Manchenayanakanahalli, Bidadi, Sundar
(32) of Jadenahalli, Bidadi, and Pushpakumara, alias Pushpa, a native of

The arrested skindealers


Pushpakumara was a television mechanic in Bangalore. Police are
investigating how Pushpakumara teamed up with the other three persons who
belong to the Hakki Pikki tribe. Skins of a bear, a deer, and a fox were
seized from the arrested. Nandini Layout police have registered a case.
Bangalore is reported to have emerged as a major centre for illegal trade in
animals. A few years ago, the Forest Squad of the Corps of Detectives seized
rare turtles from a house near R.T. Nagar and Caymans from a farm in
Bangalore Rural District.
Despite strict laws against poaching, illegal hunting continued in Bangalore
Rural District.
Attempts of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the police and Forest
Department officials to curb ritual hunting have met with partial success

The arrest of these four persons held a certain key to the discovery of a large number of professional poachers in the Nagarhole National Park. But unfortunately  no serious efforts were made by  the authorities to unearth the nexus and the poachers network. A golden opportunity was thus squandered. Had the officials interrogated the native of Bihar Mr. Pushpakumar, the

operation of over 100 or so poachers in the Nagarhole National Park would have come to light  and the Mastigudi  tigers limbs could have been saved in the nick of the time, so also the lives of hundreds of denizens of the national park, including that of the leopard, which was killed for its paws and the carcass abandoned in a gunny bag in a disused well near Periapatna, as reported on 14th June 2002.

State Converted to a Poachers Paradise and an Abattoir for Wildlife.

Time and again the authorities have exhibited perpetual levity, insouciance and habitual indifference to the series of alarm bells sounded by the conservationists and the media. The PCCF (Wildlife) has publicly confessed at the NGOs meet at Bangalore on 13-2-2002, that prosecution of poachers in the state was practically zero. Such a laxity and abysmally poor prosecution record has emboldened the poachers to run amuck and convert our state into a poachers paradise. The spectre of mutilations and deaths have only added to the gory image of Karnataka as a modern day colosseum and an abattoir for wildlife.

The elephant killed by poachers being consingned to flames.