Roar for Tigers

Pilibhit forest a safe haven for poachers

Pilibhit forest a safe haven for poachers

Mar 10, 2015

LUCKNOW: Innocuous-sounding words such as “andarwala” and “baharwala” have been found to refer to contraband such as tiger bones and skin respectively in poachers’ telephonic transcripts received by UP STF from Pilibhit. “Poachers say andarwala aur baharwala milakar ek complete set hai (including skin and bones we have intact carcass),” said additional superintendent of police, STF, UP, Arvind Chaturvedi. The arrest of ten poachers, nine of them from Pilibhit, in January by Nepal police and UP STF has set the alarm bells ringing for Pilibhit forest which was declared a tiger reserve in June 2014. “Pilibhit has recorded maximum cases of wildlife crime and there are reasons more than one which make it a safe haven for poachers,” he said. Two of the poachers arrested by Nepal police in January were in possession of 37kg tiger bones and a tiger skin. While one of the poachers was from Lakhimpur, the other was fromPilibhit. Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), New Delhi, Pilibhit reserve officers and UP STF launched a joint operation to trace ‘local’ links of poachers arrested in Nepal.

“Out of five declared ‘wanted’ by STF, two have surrendered and three are still at large,” said official. Two tiger teeth, 10kg tiger bone and 17kg decayed tiger flesh buried in compartment 72 of Barahi range of Pilibhit was recovered from poachers. On the directions of WCCB, Dudhwa tiger reserve administration will hold a meeting with Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) commandants posted along 130km of common border thatPilibhit and Dudhwa share with Nepal next week. “SSB can increase vigil along transit route for smuggling,” said regional director, northern region, WCCB, Nishant Verma.

Poachers’ preferred method: Poisoning

“Since November 2013, at least six tigers have been found poisoned in Pilibhit,” said ASP.Pilibhit reported poisoning of tigers earlier too. In May 2012, two ‘intact’ carcasses of adult tigers were recovered from Haripur range over two consecutive days. The killers were arrested. A dead tiger recovered from Sharda canal in Pilibhit in August 2012 and another recovered in November 2013 were suspected cases of poisoning. After being poisoned, most tigers search for water and die near a river or a nullah. Incidents are mostly passed off as ‘revenge killings’.Trapping and electrocution are other methods used to kill tigers.

Pilibhit a danger zone for big cats

Pilibhit shares a porous border with Nepal. Besides, Sharda river that changes its course frequently creates islands that are inaccessible for patrolling. Tigers in these forest patches are unsafe. Forest officers lack resources to intensify vigil in secluded forest patches. “Tribals living in Pilibhit— Gaddis— are the biggest threat as they can reach even the secluded and cut-off parts where enforcement agencies take time to reach,” said Chaturvedi. Locals have developed expertise to kill tigers. Once trapped, a tiger becomes almost inactive after 15-16 hours. Tribals then thrust a stick down its throat to kill it.

Who are Pilibhit poachers?

According to STF, poachers in Pilibhit are “100% locals”. They are provided help and expertise by poachers in Uttarakhand. Besides, another tribe— Bawariyas from Samalkha town in Panipat of Haryana have also been caught poaching tigers in Pilibhit.

Haven threatened

* Pilibhit was notified as 45th tiger reserve in India and 3rd in UP on June 9 last year

* Prior to being declared a tiger reserve, it had counted 30 tigers living in its forest

* Pilibhit covers an area of 72689.48 hectares

* Five ranges of Pilibhit— Barahi, Mala, Deoria, Mahof and Haripur— are scattered patches of forest



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