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Poaching racket exposed, 12kg tiger bones, nails seized from Pench tribals

The Times of India
28 Jun 2017

NAGPUR: With the arrest of two tribals, a major tiger poaching racket involved in trafficking bones, skins and other body parts has been exposed in Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR), Maharashtra, on Tuesday.

Pench officials seized over 12kg tiger bones and 14 nails from accused Devidas Tukaram Kumre (40) and Babulal Mansaram Kumre (35), both relatives and residents of Usripaar village on the fringes of Pench.

Both of them are also involved in illegal fishing in Totladoh reservoir inside the tiger reserve despite the fact there is Supreme Court ban on fishing in tiger reserve. The tigers were poached inside the core area. Rishikesh Ranjan, chief conservator of forest (CCF) & field director of Pench told TOI bones are suspected to be of three tigers.

Latest count showed Pench having 44 tigers. Four of these are known to have died since January. If the present poached cases are taken into account, the tally will come down substantially. Nationally, this takes the number of tiger deaths to 70 in last six months.

"It seems there are more people involved, our team is still at work. Only a DNA analysis would reveal the number of tigers. We are also tallying the seized evidence with tigers that have not been sighted in the last three years annual estimation," Ranjan said.

According to sources, Nagalwadi range forest officer (RFO) Nilesh Gawande and Paoni RFO PS Pakhale, both in Pench`s buffer zone, were working on secret information for quite some time about a racket supplying tiger body parts from Usripaar.

On getting confirmation, the RFOs struck a deal with one of the accused for tiger bones for Rs10,000. On Monday, around 8.30pm they approached the accused posing as customers and seized the bones kept in the backyard of the house. The teams also seized 14 tiger nails kept in a steel box in the kitchen by wife of one of the accused.

Official sources said the bones included ribs, skull, tooth etc. "These will be sent to either Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, or Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, for DNA tests," they added.

One set of bones is fresh and it is feared the animal may have been killed just 8-10 days ago while some bones are around six months old and the tigers may have been poached around October last year.

"The bones appear to be of three individual adult tigers. Only DNA tests will show they belong to how many individual tigers," said sources.

The accused have still not revealed where the skins have been disposed of. Forest officials said accused need to be taken to the crime spot for gathering more evidence and hence have sought 15 days custody but Ramtek judicial magistrate first class (JMFC) granted them only five-day custody till July 1.