With district and police officials in western Maharashtra busy battling the disease that is spreading across the region, poachers have returned to the forests
Ashok Kumar | Clarion India
MUMBAI – The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has emboldened poachers, many of who are believed to be killing animals in the Western Ghat forests, especially the Sahyadri tiger reserve in Maharashtra.
The sprawling, nearly 1,200 sq km reserve – with a core area of 600 sq km – was declared a tiger reserve in 2008, but does not have a resident tiger population. The authorities have identified eight tigers that pass through the reserve.
But poachers, taking advantage of the absence of personnel in the forests, have started targetting creatures such as porcupines, the large rodents that inhabit the reserve. Forest officials recently arrested five persons in Wai near Satara for killing a porcupine.
Environmental activist Rohan Madhukar Bhate Shah told Clarion India on Saturday that two others were also arrested on Wednesday from the Sahyadri tiger reserve on charges of hunting wild animals and trapping porcupines.
Shah, who is also a ‘Wildlife crime control bureau’ volunteer, appointed by the Indian government, says the accused were produced before a magistrate in Mahableshwar and remanded to custody for five days.
Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur districts in the western belt of Maharashtra and nestling the Sahyadri mountain range, has emerged as Covid hotspots of late.
About 80 per cent of the villages of Kolhapur district, numbering more than 800, have reported Covid cases. The total number of cases have shot up beyond 13,500 (about 7,500 being active) and 370 people have died.
Sangli and Satara have also seen a total of about 400 Covid-19 deaths and more than 12,000 active cases.
With the district officials and the police focused on battling the ongoing Covid crisis, many poachers are finding it easy to target porcupines, wild boars and giant squirrels.