Ramakanta Biswas

The Orissa High Court on Tuesday expressed deep concern over poaching of an elephant by three forest officials in Similipal Tiger Reserve in Mayurbhanj district and observed that this had been a very bad year for elephants in Odisha. 

“We are reacting to a situation all the time, but not preventing anything from happening. So what are the preventive measures we have to put in place and how quickly we can put in place. Because this has been a very bad year for elephants in Odisha. It is perhaps the worst year,” Chief Justice S Muralidhar said.  

A bench comprising Chief Justice and Justice Murahari Sri Raman conducted the hearing pertaining to discovery of the carcass of a male elephant in Similipal South Wildlife Division on December 7.

Also Read: Jumbo Deaths in Odisha: Task Force to identify Elephant Corridors, implement action plan by Dec

During the hearing, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) Manoj V. Nair appeared before the court virtually and admitted that three forest officials had killed the tusker and tried to destroy the evidence by disposing of the carcass. 

“On December 7, an anonymous call was received by the field director and accordingly he proceeded to the spot which is in the core area of Similipal Tiger Reserve on December 8. After inquiry, it came to light that the poaching had indeed happened. The three field staff- in charge ranger officer, forester and forest guard were instrumental in hiding the fact as well as destroying the evidence by destroying the carcass,” admitted Nair. 

The deputy conservator of forest of the joint task force (JTF) also filed a status report stating that all they could find were a few bones and flesh from the waterfall of the stream where the burnt matter of the elephant was disposed of by the forest staff. 

Nair told the court that the three forest officials have been placed under suspension by the field director (STR). He added that he was stationed at Similipal to ensure that the inquiry is taken to a logical conclusion. 

The court has impressed upon Nair that it would like to be assured that preventive steps as per plan by the Joint Task Force (JTF) are actually put in place immediately. 

“An affidavit listing out the exact measures taken will be filed before the next date. This will include the names of the Gaja Sathis who are said to have been deployed and the map showing the elephant corridor routes in Odisha with the names of the villages that will fall in and around the corridor,” the court said in its order. 

The court has scheduled the next hearing on December 22. The CCF has been asked to remain present on the next day of the hearing.  

Speaking about the case, Asish Mishra, who presented the case on behalf of the petitioner, said, “The PCCF appeared in the court virtually and admitted that three forest department employees have killed the tusker and removed the tusks. They burnt the carcass and tried to throw it in the river. The court expressed disappointment that the trio has been suspended and no FIR has been lodged against them.” 

“The court has posted the hearing to December 22. The court directed the PCCF to inform as to how elephant death can be stopped and what measures have been taken for elephant corridor mapping,” he added.

With input from Gautam Panda, OTV

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