Pradeep Pattanayak

In a case of fence eating the crops, a ranger and two forest guards have been suspended on charges of poaching an elephant for its tusks in Similipal sanctuary in Mayurbhanj district. 

Locals of Bakua and nearby villages in Similipal sanctuary had alleged that some employees of Jenabil range had killed a tusker and after extracting its tusks, they set the carcass on fire and threw the ash and remnants into a river in an attempt to destroy the evidence. 

The allegation shook the forest department to its core. As an immediate action, the department placed Jenabil range’s ranger (in charge) and two guards under suspension. 

To investigate the allegation, a five-member team has been constituted. Meanwhile, the team recovered ash from the river and sent the same to OUAT for examination. 

Deputy Director of Similipal Tiger Reserve, Samrat Gouda said action will be taken against whosoever is found guilty in the investigation. 

“We formed a team comprising 50 members and carried out a search. But we didn’t get any evidence. Whatever we found has been given to OUAT in Bhubaneswar for testing. After confirmation by the OUAT lab, a fresh inquiry will be launched. For the time being, the ranger and two guards have been put under suspension,” said Gouda. 

The Similipal incident is believed to lay bare the truth behind the series of elephant carcasses recovered in the State. A few months ago, the skeletal remains of four elephants were exhumed in Athgarh forest division, but there was no conclusive evidence against anyone. 

However, after the death of a bullet-ridden tusker in Narasinghapur, the role of forest department employees was in question. It was then doubted that poachers in connivance with department employees are killing elephants. The recent Similipal incident has only corroborated the doubts that even there could be direct involvement of forest personnel. 

Former PCCF Bijay Ketan Pattanayak said, “There are gates at four direction of the Similipal Tiger Reserve. Poaches can’t enter into it. Even if a poacher manages to enter, his movements in the jungle can be tracked easily. If the recent incident of setting an elephant carcass on fire and then throwing the remnants into a river is true, it must have happened in the knowledge of the forest department staff because the entire process takes some time.”

(Reported by Manik Lal Pani from Baripada, Biswambar Das from Nilagiri and Kapilendra Pradhan from Bhubaneswar, OTV)