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A Free Run For Poachers

While poaching goes on throughout the year in Goa, it is more extensive during the monsoon and harvesting season. Recently the state forest department arrested a number of people for poaching frogs that come out of hibernation at the onset of rains. Though Goa is a small state it has a large area under forest in which different types of wild animals are found. Poachers have been killing wild animals, especially wild boars, giant squirrels and deer for their meat, which is either consumed by their families or sold in market for a premium. Despite increase in the number of forest officials over the years the poachers have been able to get into forest areas and kill animals whose killing is banned. Poaching, particularly by groups of young people, is often camouflaged as a picnic trip and arms are carried in such a way that the forest officials find it difficult to detect them. Poaching is mostly carried out in the talukas along the Western Ghats where concentration of wild animals is higher. Since these areas have been identified as poaching centres there is need for deployment of more forest officials with gadgets to detect fire arms and other devices used for killing of arms. There is also a need to prevent animals being electrocuted as there are cases where electric fencing has been used to deter animals from entering farms.
Despite the fact that there have been many cases of poaching of wild animals in the state hardly anyone involved in act has been convicted and given exemplary punishment that could have served as deterrent to others. Nearly a decade ago a tiger was killed in a snare that was set for capturing wild boars at Keri. Despite the fact that the alleged poachers in the case were caught they are virtually moving about free as the case is dragging for nearly a decade now. More than a year ago a bison, which has been declared as state animal, was killed in Pernem. In this case too there has been little deterrent action. There are scores of poaching cases that come to light but there has been hardly any action taken against those involved. There have been allegations of political influence being exercised on forest officials to go soft on those involved in poaching. Most officials play safe by allowing the poachers to go unpunished. Poaching cases in courts do not get priority and have been dragging for years. As poaching is a crime under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, the cases should be decided as early as possible and those involved in the illegal acts are given harsh punishment in order to send warning signals.
While most of the wild animals are killed in organised operations in premeditated manner, in a few cases wild animals have been killed for protection of human beings or crops. There is need for a well-formulated and nuanced plan to deal with such cases. There have been complaints from farmers in the state that wild animals like elephants, bisons, deer, monkeys and peacocks destroy crops. The state has moved the Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Control to get some of the animals including peacock and bison declare as vermin to allow their culling. Besides, there was also a proposal to declare monkeys as vermin as they were alleged to have been responsible for spread of Kyasanur forest disease. Though the central ministry has given clearance to killing of nilgai (blue bull) and monkeys elsewhere in the country, the request from the state is yet to get the approval. It remains to be seen as to how the state authorities would implement the order on killing of wild animals that have been causing nuisance if approval is given by the central ministry. There is every possibility of the permission granted by authorities being misused for killing of wild animals by unscrupulous people; so there is need to ensure that the killing of wild animals was allowed only in genuine cases with prior approval of the forest approval. The forest officials need to be given a free hand to put down poaching. Arrest of a handful for poaching would not do as hundreds of poachers are involved. Meat of poached animals commands a good price. There is need for stricter laws and heavier punishment to those involved in poaching, which should serve as deterrent to people who tend to disregard the laws to carry on with their “hobbies” by killing hapless wild animals.

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