Illegal poaching at National Park?

Sep 16, 2013, 00:50 IST | Neha LM Tripathi

NGOs and wildlife experts ask this question after a group of boys in Bhandup found antlers belonging to a spotted deer, outside the boundary of Sanjay Gandhi National Park; officials refuse to comment till investigations are concluded

Antlers belonging to a spotted deer found near Bhandup (West) have raised questions about hunting, or smuggling of parts of wildlife animals in and around Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).

Deer trouble: Sunish Subramaniam, the founder of PAWS, with the antlers.

The antlers were found by a group of boys who were playing near the Khindipada pipeline. Sightings of spotted deer and leopards are common near the Khindipada pipeline, because it is close to the boundary of SGNP. This is also the same location where a small girl was killed in a leopard attack last year.

The spot, near Khindiwada at Bhandup (W), where the boys found the horns

On September 9, while playing near the Khindipada water pipeline, a group of boys noticed a part of a spotted deer’s antlers lying nearby. Having found it unusual and interesting, the children picked them up and took them.

A man, who was passing by, Yashwant Thombra, saw the antlers and allegedly snatched them from the hands of the children. Thombra was allegedly under the influence of alcohol. Locals, who saw him with the antlers, rang up officials from Plants and Animals Welfare Society (PAWS), a Bhandup-based NGO.

Soon after receiving the call, volunteers from the NGO immediately rushed to the spot. “When we reached the spot, a local showed us a picture he had clicked, of Thombra with the deer’s antlers. We immediately started searching for him, going door to door of every home in Khindipada. It was necessary because he could’ve sold the antlers, or used it for wrong purposes,” said Sunish Subramaniam, the founder of PAWS.

Two days later, Thombra was located and the antlers were retrieved from him. He was then handed over to the Thane Forest Department on September 12.
Case of hunting?

Members of PAWS feel it’s a case of hunting or poaching. “Usually spotted deer shed their antlers after breeding season. But, we also cannot rule out the possibility of hunting or poaching. I am saying this because the antler was found outside the boundary of the SGNP,” explained Subramaniam, the founder of PAWS.

Wildlife expert Krishna Tiwari also agreed. “Deer shed their antlers after breeding. So, this could be a natural process. However, it is possible that small-scale poaching takes place in the area, as it is adjacent to SGNP. It is sad that people still continue to poach animals,” said Tiwari.

But the authorities say that it’s premature to come to such conclusions. KP Singh, the chief conservator of Thane Forest Department, said, “Assuming that small-scale hunting takes place in the area is not right. We will soon start an investigation into the matter. Only then will we able to come to a conclusion.”

According to reports, there has been an increase in the population of spotted deer. From 390 in 2009, the number increased to 494 in 2011. Similarly, the number of sambar deer increased from 27, to 37.

But an official, requesting anonymity, said that the possibility of poaching or hunting couldn’t be ruled out, because there were many illegal entrances to SGNP from the Mulund-Bhandup side. “The area is too big, and it’s not easy to patrol it completely,” added the official.

The number of spotted deer at Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Wildlife Protection Act
According to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, under sections 9, 39, 40(2), 49B, the following qualify as offences.

>> Hunting, keeping or breeding of any wild animals and birds.

>> Acquiring, receiving, keeping in control, custody or possession, selling wild animals like monkeys, snakes, bears etc or any wild birds. This includes parakeets and mynahs.

>> Selling skins or meat of wild animals. This includes monitor lizard oil or oil made of any other creature. Stuffed squirrels, snake skins and peacock feathers.

The offender shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than one year, which may extend to six years and also with a fine, which shall not be less than Rs 5,000

PAWS rescues wild snake
PAWS, an NGO that has always been at the forefront of animal welfare, had rescued a red sand boa snake from Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon.
On Friday, there was chaos and heavy traffic on the busy road at Aarey Milk Colony, when people noticed a snake in the middle of the road. Chandramani Yadav, a commuter on the same road, called the NGO. The snake, of the non-venomous variety, was rescued and released back into the natural habitat on Saturday, informed Nisha Kunji, administrator of PAWS-Mumbai.  

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