BANGALORE, INDIA (January 10, 2016) – WCS reports that a poaching gang recently arrested for shooting wildlife in a well-known tiger reserve consisted of software engineers, environmental consultants, wealthy coffee planters, and a leading member of the Rifle Association of Karnataka State. Conservationists say the incident is particularly disturbing because the group consisted mostly of affluent and well-educated men.

 On December 31st of 2016, the conservation activist group “WildCat-C”, a conservation partner of the Wildlife Conservation Society-India (WCS-India), alerted the rangers and Director of India’s Bhadra Tiger Reserve to the presence of poachers hunting on the fringes of the reserve. Showing up in force, the rangers arrested a gang of 11 poachers.

The group from Wildcat-C, led by conservationist D.V. Girish, detained the poachers despite being outmanned and outgunned. The poachers were found to be armed with two guns and two vehicles, and had illegally spotlighted, shot and killed two Sambar deer – the primary prey of tigers in the reserve. The carcasses of the deer were hidden in the forest for subsequent retrieval.

D.V. Girish of the Bhadra Wildlife Conservation Trust and WildCat-C, who led the operation with the Forest Department said: "This may be the tip of a new iceberg. A new and ugly generation of wealthy, educated poachers appears to be emerging, to so casually destroy the conservation gains achieved through decades of hard work by forest officials and conservationists in India. This is very sad, but we rural conservationists will thwart them.” 

WildCat-C is a partner organization of the WCS-India Program active in the area for over three decades. Their familiarity to the region and experience in the field and knowledge of legal provisions under the Indian Law provided them an advantage in this case.

The incident took place in Karnataka’s highest mountain ranges between December 31, 2016 and January 1, 2017. All the accused have confessed before the magistrate who remanded them to judicial custody for 15 days. They have been charged under various sections of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, which carries fines and a punishment of 3-7 years.

Tiger and prey numbers have been rising steadily in Bhadra since WCS and conservation partners collaborated with the Indian Government in 2004 to assist with the voluntary relocation of 450 rural families that were residing deep in the reserve, depressing wildlife densities through activities including hunting and manmade fires.

Dr. Ullas Karanth, WCS-India Director for Science said, “This incident clearly shows the importance of nurturing local guardians for India's wildlife through their involvement in citizen science projects, as WCS has done. Girish and his Wild Cat-C team are a beacon of hope. The collaboration and prompt action by officials of Bhadra Reserve is highly commendable and shows the effectiveness of such close on ground collaborations.”

WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)

MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.