Earlier Veerappan was operating alone for more than two decades controlling the Nilgiri biosphere, but now there are six major gangs operating in south India, besides the timber mafia and minor poachers, said informed wildlife sources probing the incidence of poaching for the past six years.
“During early 90’s Veerappan controlled almost the entire Nilgiri Biosphere covering Biligiri Ranga Tiger reserve, Mudumalai tiger reserve, Sathyamangalam tiger reserve, Anamalai tiger reserve, Bandipur Tiger reserve and MM Hills,” said a highly placed source associated with International Union for Conservation of Nature, who had earlier served with Traffic India on international wildlife trade.
He also enjoyed a good network over the Parambikulam Tiger reserve and the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary in adjacent Kerala.
Outsiders had a fear factor to cross over Sathyamangalam reserve as it was the connecting area of TN with Karnataka and Kerala.
But after his demise in 2004, local poachers started emerging and now poachers from north India have started patrolling the south Indian forests, the top source said.
“It is a fact that there are at least six poaching gangs operating in Tamil Nadu and Periyar Tiger Reserve bordering Theni is notorious for the poachers,” said Deepak Nambiar, founder, Elephus Maximux Indicus Trust.
Though the cruelty against elephants are brought out, the fate of wild jumbos largely goes unnoticed as the state forest departments are not transparent in governing the forests.
Further the forests are always restricted for the biologists and activists, thus helping a nexus to grow between the poachers and a few corrupt officers, alleged Nambiar who has sent several petitions to the centre on Elephant conservation.
“The lockdown had also helped the poachers to thrive on bush meat and one of the major reasons is that the small offenders are often fined and let out by the courts and they slowly became trained poachers targeting bigger mammals like elephants, tigers and leopards,” said a forest range official recalling the last year incident of wild dogs and vultures reported dead near Mudumalai after consuming poisoned carcass kept for tigers.