In what appears to be a case of poaching, the body of an adult elephant was found, with its tusks chopped off, at the Khuttimari forest in Jalpaiguri on Thursday morning. Foresters spotted the carcass at South Moraghat compartment in Gosaihaat beat under Moraghat range of the forest. This is the first suspected case of elephant poaching in the state in a decade.Sources said it was an ailing tusker and stranded at Khuttimari forest for the last four months. Though the forest department officials had tried their best to treat it, they failed as the elephant was wild and was in no mood to cooperate. “Since the tusker was already injured, we could not take the risk of tranquillizing it as that might result in an early death of the animal,” said a forester. The tusker hardly moved in the initial days after it got stranded at the forest. But of late, it had started moving, indicating that the animal was responding to the treatment by the forest department. While the tusker was recovering from the injuries, its death in the wee hours on Thursday came as a severe blow to the forest officials. Though the post mortem revealed that it was a natural death, foresters and environmentalists are in a shock as its tusks are missing.
“Even last week the tusker had raided a paddy field near Dhupguri. It’s really surprising that the animal would collapse suddenly. More importantly, the tusks are missing. There is every possibility of poaching in this particular case”, said a forester. After preliminary investigation, the foresters are suspecting involvement of local villagers in the incident. “An axe might have been used. It doesn’t look like an ace hand, the manner in which the tusks were cut. We have already engaged the forest protection committees (FPC) to search for the tusks in the nearby villages,” said Bidyut Sarkar, DFO, Jalpaiguri.
MD of state forest development corporation and an elephant expert, S S Bist, said the last such incident was reported in the state in 2002, when an elephant died due to floods in North Bengal and its body was found on the banks of river Daina, under Jalpaiguri division, with the tusks missing. “That was a case of theft of tusks,” he added.
Conservationist Biswajit Roy Chowdhury said there should be proper probe before coming to any conclusion, as such a case has been reported after almost a decade. The forest department has decided to send the viscera and blood samples to a Kolkata laboratory for more tests. In October 2009, a rhino had died after falling into river Torsha after poachers shot it at Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary.