Turam Purti, the only eyewitness in the poaching of a tusker and disposing of the carcass in Similipal Wildlife Sanctuary, died on Friday while undergoing treatment at Cuttack-based SCB Medical College and Hospital.
Turam, a contractual employee at Similipal, had consumed poison after being threatened by the three accused forest staff-ranger-in-charge Siba Shankar Samal, forester Chandrabhanu Behera and forest guard Binod Das.
He was rushed to the local hospital in critical condition. After preliminary treatment, he was referred to SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack. However, he succumbed today.
He was the only eyewitness in the heinous crime and was being threatened by the three suspended officials who have now been arrested after Orissa High Court came down heavily on the forest department and termed 2022 as the worst year for elephants in Odisha.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice Murahari Sri Raman expressed deep concern over the incident and asked the forest department to file an affidavit listing out the exact measures taken for the protection of elephants before the next hearing scheduled on December 22.
Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) Manoj V. Nair admitted that the poaching has indeed happened and the three forest officials killed the tusker for its tusks. Later, they set the carcass on fire and threw the ash and remnants into a river in an attempt to destroy evidence.
Meanwhile, the officials have recovered ash from the river and sent the same to OUAT for examination.
Sources said the Similipal incident is just the tip of the iceberg of a series of elephant deaths in Odisha. A few months ago, the skeletal remains of four elephants were exhumed in Athagarh forest division. However, no action was taken against anyone as there was no conclusive evidence against anyone.
(Reported by Deepak, OTV)