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Corona Brings Poachers’ Bonanza

Corona Brings Poachers’ Bonanza

The incident of poaching has gone up worryingly after lockdown compared to a survey of pre-lockdown period

Pictures of various animals including leopards and lions ‑besides peacocks and a Neelgai‑roaming around neighbourhoods adjacent to forests and wildlife sanctuaries have gone viral during the lockdown.

But many of these animals must have been thanking their stars for having gone back to jungles unscathed.

Because they have managed to save themselves from the clutches of wildlife criminals. In fact, the coronavirus pandemic has put a host of tribal outfits in India into a dilemma.

Bishu Shikar, also known as Sendra, a tribal hunting festival celebrated every year between April and May in Jharkhand, Bengal and Odisha, was not held.

The TI report accessed by EastIndiaStory.Com  shows that there has been an increase in poaching of wild animals – mainly for their meat – across India during the pandemic-forced shutdown.

The `Hul Utsav’ , another famous tribal hunting festival in Bengal, was observed in a low-key manner .

Armed with spears, bows and arrows and even firearms, tribals usually converge inside various sanctuaries and spend the day there to mark the festivals, held symbolically, since hunting is banned in the sanctuaries.

These tribals live in villages dotting the sanctuaries and suburbs.

But the pandemic has kept them practically locked indoors, and a new analysis by TRAFFIC- India (TI) has revealed a grim picture.

The TI report accessed by EastIndiaStory.Com shows that there has been an increase in poaching of wild animals – mainly for their meat – across India during the pandemic-forced shutdown.

The wildlife criminals, TI analysis states, are actually having a field day, thanks to the lockdown.

The Coivd-19 has imposed a severe restriction on movement of law enforcement staff and sparse attendance of these staff in the field has severely impacted the vigil on these poachers.

The analysis was carried out on the basis of reports of poaching during a six-week pre-lockdown period (February 10 to March 22) and another six-weeks of lockdown(March 23 to May 3).

The report, titled “Indian Wildlife amidst Covid 19 Crisis: An Analysis of Poaching and illegal wildlife trade trends” shows cases of poaching have grown up from 35 to an alarming 88 during the six weeks under lockdown.

“The highest increase in poaching (cases) was reported to be that of ungulates, mainly for their meat and the percentage jumped from nearly eight out of 35(22 per cent) total reported cases during the pre-lockdown to 39 out of 88(44 per cent) during the lockdown,” the TI analysis said.

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“The poaching of `small mammals’ group too showed a marked rise. The animals here include hare, porcupine, pangolin, giant squirrel, civet, monkey and smaller wild cats,” it said and attributed the reason behind an increasing demand for meat among the tribals.

The casualties in West Bengal and Jharkhand include hare, wild boars and giant squirrels and various migratory birds.

Among the big cats, leopard poaching showed a spike during the lockdown, with nine of them being reportedly killed compared to four during the pre-lockdown days.

According to Anup Nayak, Member-Secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, there have been reports of herbivore poaching from some tiger reserve areas during the lockdown, which has been causing concern.

Even if arrests have been made, the ring leaders and their main aides have often given the law enforcement authorities a miss, he conceded.

India’s environment, forest and climate change minister Prakash Javadekar has claimed that the tiger population in the country has increased by 750 in the last four years.

But Madhya Pradesh alone reported 38 deaths of big cats due to poaching while 19 deaths were still under scrutiny by the forest officials.

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