Two tuskers aged around 25 and 30 were found poached in M.M. Hills Sanctuary on Monday sending shock waves among wildlife conservation circles as it had the stamp of professional killers.
The elephants were shot, their trunks chopped off, and tusks removed. The incident took place near Garkekhandi in the Ramapura-Palar range near Tamil Nadu border.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Ravi Ralph, who visited the spot, told The Hindu that they suspect the elephants were poached on Sunday. “Though some names like Sarvanan and Ganesh are doing the rounds, we do not wish to specify any at this juncture,” he added.
The carcass of the elephants were found at a distance of 1 km from each other on a steep hillock and officials are studying possible angles, including the link with the recent spate of poaching incidents reported in Kerala which, in turn, was suspected to be part of a larger network of international dealers in wildlife derivatives engaged in illegal trading of ivory.
Mr. Ralph said the post-mortem of the tuskers will take place on Tuesday and the report will throw more clarity on the kind of firearms used and other details.
A meeting of State Forest Department officials with their counterparts from Tamil Nadu is slated in due course for exchange of information and coordinated action, Mr. Ralph said. Incidentally, there have been four reported incidents of ivory confiscation around M.M. Hills in the last 5 years, including one in Nallur village in the same area in August this year.
Though the area has a history of prey animals like spotted deer and sambhars being poached for consumption, it is the first time that two elephants were found poached simultaneously, and their tusks removed and taken away. These forests were out of bounds through the 1990s as it was part of “Veerappan’s territory” but was reclaimed after his death in 2004.
Mr. Ralph said additional staff will be deployed in the area in due course to strengthen anti-poaching operations. The M.M. Hills Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over 907 sq km and was under territorial division till it was notified as a sanctuary in May 2013.