NAGPUR: In another breakthrough, two tiger poachers, Bhajan and Rauna, belonging to Bahelia community from Katni in MP, were nabbed in Raigada in Odisha on Thursday night. Raigada is around 400km from Chhattisgarh capital Raipur.
With the arrest of these two, the tally of those arrested in tiger poaching cases in Vidarbha has gone up to 18. Forest officials said the list of wanted poachers has swelled to 80 and not 48 as was thought earlier. Bhajan is said to one of them.
Talking to TOI, Sarjan Bhagat, state’s principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) for wildlife, said, “Two tiger poachers have been arrested including Bhajan, whose name figures in the killing of a tiger in Dhakna. Links of another poachers are being identified.”
Acting on a tip-off by Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), a NGO working in wildlife crime enforcement, the Raigada SP laid a trap and nabbed the two at 10pm from a temporary camp near railway station on Thursday. Two persons, also suspected to be poachers, managed to escape. However, delay in reaching Raigada by state forest officials to take custody of the accused may prove costly as Odisha Police may not keep the accused in custody for more than 24 hours.
Bhagat said, “We are despatching a forest team to Raigada tonight. Earlier, we thought of sending Melghat officials but changed our plan.” “The poachers are scattering to remote areas to avoid arrests and it will take sustained efforts to nail them,” said Nitin Desai, Central India director of WPSI.
According sources, the area of operation of Bhajan (25), son of Hotel, was Melghat. He is also wanted in killing of a tiger in Dhakna on March 4. Besides, Rauna is said to be the son of Bhagru alias Ujiyaar, who was nabbed from Pune along with 11 others in August and is under magisterial custody (MCR). Sources said Rauna (22) is the cousin of Saranki, who has already confessed to killing a tiger in Mansar and Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary along with Ajit. While Saranki was in the gang of Ajit, Rauna was part of gang led by another notorious poacher Keru, brother of Ajit.
Ajit and Keru used to operate in Tadoba landscape. Interestingly, Saranki, who is at present in custody of Pench officials, has identified the picture of Rauna. Arrest of Bhajan and Rauna can bring to fore killing of tigers elsewhere. According to past crime records, Keru, who is absconding, is suspected to have killed a tiger near Bamni in Brahmapuri Forest Division during the same period. Both the skins were procured by Delhi-based trader Sarju from Umred in May. Sarju is lodged in Nagpur Central Jail.
In September second week, Bhajan, Luchi, and Bharo had given a slip to forest team from Nagpur when they were on their trail at Solapur and subsequently in Karnataka.
ON POACHERS’ TRAIL
* Nabbed so far: Since June 6, 20 accused including 18 poachers have been held. These are Mamru, Chika, Yarlen, Barsul, Siri, Minar, Srival, Nirafal, Ujiyaar, Lupustan, Sarju, Chacha, Lala, Ajit, Saranki, Jiyalal, Parman and Soberam. Rauna and Bhajan will be brought from Odisha.
* From Where: Mamru & Chika were nabbed from Mansar. Yarlen & Barsul were held by Jabalpur officials. Siri and Jiyalal were nabbed in Paratwada. Parman & Shoberam were held from Melghat, while Nirafal, Lupustan, Srival and Minar were held in Pune. Sarju, Lala and Chacha were arrested in Delhi. Ajit was arrested near Tirupati and Saranki from Umariya. Rauna and Bhajan from Raigada.
* Their Role: Sarju and Lala procured 5 tiger skins from poachers operating in Vidarbha. Chacha was financier and procured skins by offering commissions to Lala and Sarju. More than 20 tiger skins were trafficked from here in the past nine months. Jiyalal made steel traps for poachers, while Parman and Soberam helped poachers. Mamru, Chika, Siri, Yarlen, Barsul, Nirafal, Srival, Ujiyaar and Lupustan killed tigers in Melghat. Minar transported bones and skin. Ajit and Saranki killed tigers in Mansar and Umred-Karhandla.
* Who’s Absconding: Over 80 poachers and tiger traders are absconding. Prominent among them are Sonam, Dalbir, Kalla, Kuttu, Keru, Sheru, Luchi, Bharo, Saka, Warrant, Guarantee, Khutya and others.