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Well-heeled Poachers, Under Arrest

January 12, 2017

Tv9s6acmj photos wild sambar deer male and female photo by kalyan varma
Photo Credit: ©Kalyan Varma

On New Year's Eve, 2016, the conservation activist group "WildCat-C", a partner of WCS-India, alerted the rangers of India's Bhadra Tiger Reserve to the presence of poachers on the fringes of the protected area. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, the rangers detained the gang of 11 poachers, who had illegally spotlighted, shot, and killed two sambar deer – the primary prey of tigers in the reserve.

But there was something unusual about this poaching gang; its members included software engineers, environmental consultants, wealthy coffee planters, and a leading member of the Rifle Association of Karnataka State.

"This may be the tip of a new iceberg," said D.V. Girish of the Bhadra Wildlife Conservation Trust and WildCat-C, who led the operation with the Forest Department. "A new and ugly generation of wealthy, educated poachers appears to be emerging, to so casually destroy the conservation gains achieved through decades of hard work by forest officials and conservationists in India. This is very sad, but we rural conservationists will thwart them."

All the accused have confessed before a magistrate, who remanded them to judicial custody for 15 days. They have been charged under various sections of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, which carries fines and a punishment of 3-7 years.

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