“The general view that the lockdown has helped increase poaching activities along the Western Ghats is wrong. The reality is poaching is happening as usual, but now the cases booked by wildlife wing have increased several folds,” said an informed wildlife official source.
According to Traffic India, illegal wildlife trade monitoring agency sources, poaching activity has neither reduced nor increased but the patrol and seizure of wildlife products have improved in the southern states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka during this lockdown due to better patrolling by the foresters.
Tamil Nadu foresters have booked more than 110 cases mostly from the Coimbatore region alone during this lockdown period. Pangolins, bush meat, parts of jackal, leopard and tiger lead the list of seizures, the source said.
“The complete ban on tourist movement in south Indian forests have helped the foresters to easily trace the movement of poachers foraying into forests. Further, with the tourists and political VIPS staying away from forest guest houses and wildlife safaris, the only job of the foresters is to guard the forests, and this has worked in districts like Coimbatore, Nilgiris,” said a forest department official.
However, in districts like Erode and Delta, more timber has been chopped off by the foresters in connivance with the timber mafia forcing the shunting out senior officials and placing the field staff under department inquiry and suspension, the official said.
The point is that the wildlife is not safe in Nilgiris biosphere. Cases are booked, but there is a need for more preventive patrolling along the Western Ghats. There is a need for systematic monitoring of wildlife and the flora, said conservation scientist A Kumaraguru.
It is a fact that the patrol has increased but the overall idea should be aimed at zero poaching and effective forest conservation norms.
This can be achieved only by committed systematic mechanism and dedicated foresters which is lacking in some ranges of TN forests said the senior biologist who is also an expert in the state forest department committee on Asiatic elephants.
There is a need for more effective joint patrol by police and foresters. Today the local public are using explosives targeting wildlife. Tomorrow their target will be humans.
Those using illegal explosives should be booked under goondas act, Kumaraguru added.