Priest of local temple among five arrested in blackbuck poaching racket

The accused who were caught for blackbuck poaching at the Ranebennur sanctuary. 

The accused who were caught for blackbuck poaching at the Ranebennur sanctuary. 

The forest mobile squad of Belagavi division busted a blackbuck poaching racket and arrested a 32-year-old temple priest who was allegedly running it.

Officials said the accused were poaching at the Ranebennur sanctuary by setting snare, iron mesh net across the forest area in the night before setting free trained hunting dogs to chase them in one direction and also placing explosives in a pack of eatables to attract the blackbucks.

The accused also confessed that they would draw power illegally and supply it across the forest area to electrocute the blackbucks and kill them, officials added. The accused would then take out the skin, horns and meat to sell it to the clients of the priest for lakhs of rupees per skin.

Based on a tip off, Seema Garg, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Vigilance), directed the forest officials to probe the matter. A team led by Suresh Teli, Assistant Conservator of Forest, approached the gang on the pretext of being buyers and clinched a deal for three skins.

The officials caught Tyagaraj Lakshman Lamani, 24, and his associate Gurunath Basavaraj, 23, when they came to handover three pelts at the Ranebennur bypass on Saturday.

Based on their information, the police arrested Beerappa Nagappa Medleri, 32, the priest at Devaragudda temple, who also runs an ashram. Medleri had been operating through his hunting gang which included Theerkappa Marappa Goder, 50, and Nagappa Dyamappa Harijan, 45.

Buyers lured through religious beliefs

Investigations revealed that Beerappa would lure the rich devotees visiting Devaragudda temple by peddling the belief that possessing blackbuck pelt would bring them fortune. He also promised to get the skin to them through his contacts. After the deal, he would direct his hunting team to get the skin or horns as per the deal. The horns were being sold to vehicles owners, who would place it as trophies in front of their vehicles.

Many dealers who sell pooja items also buy blackbuck skin, cut into the size of chocolate wrappers, which are in high demand among a particular community for their ritual, the officials added. The chocolate-wrapper sized skin is a cheap, fast-moving item and also helps avoid legal hassles, the officials added.

Beerappa allegedly confessed that he had poached five blakcbucks this year but the officials managed to get only three skins.

The gang has been operating for the last two years, but the officials are probing further to ascertain their criminal activities and network. Last year, Beerappa had been booked under the Wildlife Act for selling sand boa.

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Printable version | Aug 1, 2022 9:01:47 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/priest-of-local-temple-among-five-arrested-in-blackbuck-poaching-racket/article65681093.ece