Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN
NAGPUR: In a major breakthrough that could unmask recent poaching of tigers in Maharashtra, the Chhindwara forest officials have nabbed a 11-member gang with a metal trap near Linga in Madhya Pradesh, around 110km from Nagpur.

As the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has sounded a red alert following poaching of tigers in Maharashtra recently, a rigorous monitoring and patrolling drive has been launched around parks in Madhya Pradesh.

The two youths who were arrested first revealed their names as Jinender (26) from Surguja and Ramid (30) from Ambikapur, both in Chhattisgarh. Five members of the gang are still absconding. The women and children of the gang members have also been detained. Sources said all the gang members belong to the Pardhi community.

The gang was exposed after two forest guards going toward Pench Tiger Reserve found the two youths moving about in a suspicious manner on a bike. The youths were coming from Pench side. Linga, the place where they were nabbed, is 14km from Chhindwara.

The men and women were in a green-coloured gypsy close behind. During a search and interrogation, it was found that they were from the Pardhi community. A metal trap with hair, suspected to be that of tiger, has also been seized.
"The hair will be sent to forensic lab for examination. A spear and two hammers used to fit the traps were also seized from the vehicle. The culprits said they had come to villages to sell bedsheets and blankets," said divisional forest officer (DFO) Ashok Kumar of Chhindwara (East).

The gang is suspected to have come from Nagpur. They apparently had plans to lay traps inChaurai, Chand and Bichwa areas in the buffer zone of Pench reserve in Madhya Pradesh.
"It seems to be a big gang operating simultaneously in various forest areas. We have also seized eight motorcycles and equal number of mobiles from them," Kumar said. "Many wire traps used to kill small and big animals were also confiscated from them."

Immediately after the news of the arrest, the Pardhi women tried to create a scene but due the to presence of police there was no law and order problem. The arrested poachers are not revealing the names of the absconding members. "We will also examine whether the poachers were involved in killing of tigers in Maharashtra," Kumar said. "Their call details will be traced."

SWH Naqvi, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Maharashtra, said he will coordinate with the MP forest officials to see whether the gang is involved in wildlife crime here.

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