With endangered animals being trapped and killed, officials say they are taking no chances
To deal with the increasing menace of poachers, authorities at the Arignar Anna Zoological park in Vandalur have been told to shoot anyone found trapping or killing a wild animal.
Field range officers at the zoo, which is spread over 602 hectares, have been given specific instructions by the State forest department to shoot poachers if they are spotted within the premises of the zoo or inside the Vandalur reserve forest area. The officers however, are to issue a warning to the poachers before they shoot.
The instruction comes in the wake of a series of cases of poachers trapping wild animals, especially deer, in the reserve forest area, part of which is used a free range zone for several animals.
On Monday, a five-year-old male spotted deer was critically injured in its legs and stomach after it was caught in an iron trap in the zoo’s fodder zone near the free range zone. A patrol team spotted it and took it to veterinary clinic at the zoo, where it is currently undergoing treatment.
A casual worker, who has been employed at the zoo for the past two years, has been questioned in connection with the incident.
The possession or killing of wild species, especially those that are endangered is punishable under the Indian Wildlife Act, 1972, with imprisonment of up to seven years and a fine of Rs. 25,000. The spotted deer is listed as an endangered species under schedule II of the Act.
“We are probing the poacher angle and have intensified our patrols inside the zoo. The injured deer is recovering,” said a forest official.
The 3-hectare fodder zone is meant for herbivores, primarily the 800 spotted deer that live in the free range zone.
Unlike the zoo, the free range zone is not fenced. Access to it is only through the zoo.
However, the zoo’s fencing is broken at many spots, making it easy for poachers to get in and trap wild animals.
“We don’t think local residents are involved. We believe there may be a gang of poachers operating here,” said a forest official.
After Monday’s incident, patrol teams have been strengthened with each team comprising at least four forest officials led by a range officer who have been given a pistol and a vehicle to monitor the zoo and the forest. Other gadgets given to the teams include state-of-the-art flashlights, wireless sets and sirens.
Currently, the zoo is the home to more than 1,500 wild species including many endangered species.