Not only killer tracks, poachers another big threat for elephants

Besides having to deal with the speeding trains, the elephants in north Bengal also have poachers wreaking havoc in their lives. With four instances of poaching reported in last five months, the state forest department, it seems, have more to confront than the trains passing through the elephant corridor in Jalpaiguri district.

While two incidents were reported from the Buxa Tiger Reserve in Jalpaiguri, the other two were from the Kalimpong foothill forest area in Darjeeling where carcass of the elephants were found without the tusks.

Aware of the scenario, N C Bahuguna, chief wildlife warden, said, "We have started conducting raids and have seized some ivory (from Jalpaiguri and Jhargram divisions).

"While we have evidence to support that poachers killed elephants on two instances, we are still waiting for forensic reports to determine the cause of death of the other two."

A senior forest department official said bullets were found in the carcasses in two cases and poisoned arrows in the other two.

"In two cases we know the poachers followed the elephants from Nepal and shot them. They chopped off their heads and took away the tusks. In other cases, we are not sure from where the poachers came.

"At the Buxa region, Assam border is close. But we do not have proof that poachers from Assam enter the state through the forest areas to smuggle ivory," said the official. The department has started appointing patrol parties to keep vigil and developed the intelligence gathering network on poachers.

Significantly, elephant population in north Bengal has come under a severe threat with 18 mowed down by trains in the last 10 months.

Sources say the ivory is smuggled to countries like China and Vietnam.

"In foreign countries, people make ornaments and decorative pieces from ivory. In India, though, the government has made possession of ivory illegal," said a senior official. Despite this, the market for ivory continues to thrive.

"A poacher gets hold of at least 15 kg of ivory by killing a full grown elephant, the average price for which is Rs 1 lakh per kg in the international market," he added.

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