Forest officials from the Kundah Range in the Nilgiris South Forest Division successfully thwarted an attempt to smuggle sandalwood from the reserve forests using a modified pick-up truck on Friday night.
The smugglers, who fled after being stopped by the forest staff, were using a modified vehicle with a “false” flat-bed on top of the truck, providing enough space between the chassis and the flat-bed to hide the sandalwood.
C. Ramachandran, Forest Range Officer, Kundah Range, said the Forest Department received a tip-off about a gang operating from near Geddai, hunting game and possibly smuggling timber. For the last few days, two teams of forest staff began patrolling in the area, and on Friday night, spotted a pick-up truck.
“Initially, it looked as if the truck was empty,” said Mr. Ramachandran. The vehicle was then allowed to leave. However, the forest officials were suspicious and therefore followed the vehicle for a distance before stopping it again.
When forest staff demanded that the flat-bed be opened to reveal the chassis underneath, the occupants fled the spot.
Mr. Ramachandran said that 13 kg of sandalwood were recovered, and the vehicle, registered in Kerala, has been seized. Efforts are underway to find the owner of the vehicle, he said.
A case has been registered and the forest officials are perusing CCTV footage to identify the smugglers.