Valpoi: The three arrested suspects have admitted to killing the four tigers in the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary near Golavli village in Sattari taluka.
Sources in the forest department said on Thursday that officials are on the lookout for one more suspect, who might have helped the accused in disposing evidence. Forest officials and police are investigating into the case from all angles.
Sources in the department said that the accused – Vitho Pawane, Nalo Pawane and Bomo Pawane, who had been remanded by court to the forest department’s custody for two days, have admitted to committing the crime and narrated the entire incident.
On Thursday, the accused were taken by the forest officials to the burial site of the fourth carcass.
“During interrogation, one of the accused admitted to committing the heinous crime of killing the tigers; he was brought here. He told us the location where the tigers were buried,” said an official present at the site. He said that the accused narrated how he committed the crime along with his accomplices. “The tigers were reportedly poisoned, but unless the post-mortem report is received by us, we cannot say anything as of now,” the official said.
Top officials appeared to be tight-lipped on the status of the case. “I cannot comment on whether the forest department has cracked the case or not. We are still conducting investigation with regard to all the aspects,” said investigation officer Nandkumar Parab. When asked whether the accused have admitted to committing the crime, Parab refused to reveal anything stating that it is part of investigation and the exact cause of death of tigers would be established once the autopsy reports are received.
It may be noted that the forest department had found four dead tigers within four days. The first carcass, of a sub-adult tiger, was found by officials on Sunday, while on Tuesday late evening, the officials came across carcass of a sub-adult tigress, which was buried. On Wednesday, the officials found carcass of a fully-grown tigress in a decomposed state, a few metres away from the site where the second carcass was found and later the officials found the fourth carcass, partially buried.
The fourth carcass, of a sub-adult tigress, was exhumed on Thursday in the presence of top officials of the department. A panchanama was conducted and samples extracted by veterinarians. The samples will be sent for examination. “We have disposed the decomposed carcass of the last tiger after conducting the panchanama. The samples have been sent for autopsy to ascertain the exact cause of death,” said Deputy Conservator of Forests Vikas Desai.
Meanwhile, environmentalists and animal lovers said that the forest department officials should have taken extra care to save the tigers, as they were aware of the presence of the wildcats in the sanctuary.
Some locals in the region were of the opinion that if the concerned authorities had lent an ear to the grievances of the affected families, whose tamed animals were killed by the wildcats, and compensated them, the incident of tiger killings would have been averted.
“Three cubs with their mother roaming in and around Golavli village was a common sight for villagers and the forest staff. Even the forest department claims that images of the wildcat family were recorded on camera recently. It is disheartening that despite having 7 to 8 tigers in the sanctuary, no dedicated steps were taken by the government. The state government has also not set up a tiger protection task force, which would have saved these tigers,” said environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar.