SACREDFIG

Incident at Bhumka Chaur

In Environment, India, photos, Wildlife on May 13, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Here is a guest post from Arun Agnihotri, Former Director, The Corbett Foundation.

On February 27, 2009 at around 12:30 pm, Mohan Pandey and Rajesh Panwar, both members of the Corbett Gram Vikas Samiti decided to visit some craftsmen working near Bhumka Chaur grassland, about two kilometres south of Chhoti Haldwani. This is a small village in the foothills of Kumaon where Jim Corbett once lived. The area is surrounded by dense forest with the Boar River flowing to its west. Craftsmen from Bageshwar district visit this place every year and stay for about two months. The duo decided to film the craftsmen as well as the picturesque area when they sighted a handsome Cheetal (Axis axis) buck in the river’s edge, some 50 metres away from them.

However, their delight quickly turned to alarm when they saw two dogs and a man in dark clothing closing in on the buck.

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The man was holding a big sickle (locally called a baryat) in his hand. Taking a different route they soon reached the spot but were too late to stop the man who was hitting the deer on its neck with the baryat.  Seeing them, the man ran into the forest towards Kotabagh road, leaving the dead deer in the river.

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On examination, six to seven slash wounds were found on the deer’s neck. He was a large animal, about 85 cm. height and 135 cm. length with 60 cm. long horns.

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The Range Officer of Kaladhungi Range was informed who reached the spot with his team after two and half hours. Forest officials identified the poacher as ‘Jivan Singh’ from the nearby village of Musabunger. Though he is recognised as a professional poacher who has been active in this region for many years, lack of evidence had prevented the department from taking any action in the past.

The dead animal was pulled out of the river and wounds were also observed on his hind leg, horns, neck and tongue, as well as a few dog bites. A post-mortem was conducted on February 28, 2009.

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Meanwhile, Jivan Singh was arrested and following his confession, a fine of one lakh was imposed on him. However, due to pressure from various sources (read political), this was reduced to almost half the amount and he was released (!) with a warning.

It is truly disheartening that despite having solid proofs, poachers often get away with minimal sentences or fines. This, as has been seen in the past, only emboldens them to continue their reprehensible activities.

Corbett, of course, has had a recent spate of poaching incidents. The Uttarakhand Forest Department nabbed five poachers at Ramnagar in January 2009. A tigress’s skin was recovered from them as well as traps and other equipment. Often the focus is on poaching of big cats and while that is vital, we cannot overlook the hunting of prey species such as cheetal, sambar and wild pig. A decline in the prey population eventually leads to greater human-animal conflict with the big cats being forced to leave their forest homes in search of food.

( This report was also sent to Sanctuary Asia)

Arun Agnihotri

Former Director, The Corbett Foundation.

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