After an intensive investigation of three weeks, a Forest squad from the Thamarassery range office on Thursday arrested a six-member poaching gang at Muthappanpuzha near Thamarassery. The squad also seized a country-made gun, remains of hunted wild squirrels and a car which they allegedly used for travelling.
The suspects, Junaiz, Satheesh, Prakashan, Rajeesh, Sunil, and Tomy, were arrested after several rounds of surprise inspections by the Forest squad. All of them are natives of Thiruvambadi and Areekode in the district.
Forest Department officials said that poachers had been encroaching on the Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary following the extension of the lockdown. Range officers under various Forest stations were constantly on the lookout for the poachers’ gangs with the tip-offs they received from various sources, they said.
The officials found that the gang had hunted an endangered species of squirrels in the wildlife sanctuary. The meat was meant to be sold at a high rate to buyers. Officials said they would also investigate the details of persons who allegedly bought the hunted meat from the gang.
In a similar incident earlier in the region, the Forest squad had arrested two persons, apart from seizing country-made guns, bullets, and other hunting accessories. They were involved in large-scale hunting during the Easter and Vishu seasons. After their arrest, the number of watchers had been increased along the Forest areas for better vigil.
The entry of poachers into the wildlife sanctuary was confirmed by the squads after recovering the horn of a hunted bison near Pasukkadavu forest area two months ago. A 34-year-old man, suspected to have gunned down the animal, had been arrested by the Forest squad from the Kuttiyadi Range. The squad had also seized a country-made gun reportedly used for the poaching.
In the subsequent investigations, the Forest squad had also confirmed suspicious links of poachers with illicit liquor brewing gangs. Several hooch dens had been unearthed in the interior villages during the raid by Forest and Excise squads. Officials said joint operations would be considered again to track down suspects.