India

Odisha state crime branch to probe elephant deaths

The Asiatic Elephant
Asiatic Elephant. Photo: OnTheGoTours / Flickr

The Odisha state crime branch of police will comprehensively probe the increasing poaching of elephants, official sources said. The state government, sources said, will initially hand over to the crime branch three alleged poaching cases, one relating to the death of two pachyderms at Balikhal in Similipal biosphere reserve in November 2011, and one case each pertaining to Kuldiha and Satkosia wildlife sanctuaries. “The idea is to thoroughly probe so that organized rackets, if any, involved in poaching of elephants could be detected and busted,” principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) J D Sharma told TOI.

Though the latest elephant census, the results of which was declared a month ago, showed a jump in pachyderm population, from 1,886 in 2010 to 1,930 in 2012, the government is perturbed over heavy elephant casualty owing to poaching, electrocution and other reasons in the state. In 2009-10, 51 elephants died while the pachyderm casualty in 2010-11 and 2011-12 was 83 and 66 respectively. In 2012-13, at least 21 elephants have perished so far, officials said.

“Consequently, the government has drawn severe flak from different quarters. We are serious about the issue and want to reduce elephant deaths due to unnatural reasons. Hence, the decision to go for a crime branch inquiry,” said a senior wildlife officer.

Official sources said the probe would be a precursor to setting up of a dedicated cell to deal with forest and wildlife cases in the crime branch. “We plan to have a multi-disciplinary team involving police and forest officers to focus on major wildlife cases, track poachers and improve surveillance activities,” an officer said.

“We are keen to take up investigation into wildlife cases and attempt to bust any organized network that could be operating,” additional director general (crime) B K Sharma said. Sharma, who was part of the CBI probe into the infamous tiger deaths at Sariska in Rajasthan over five years ago, said the crime branch had in 2007 investigated certain poaching cases. “We have some experience and would surely like to contribute our mite to stop poaching in the state,” he added.

Original Story: Times of India