NAGPUR: Facing sharp criticism over setting the blackbuck poachers free on Tuesday, theAkola territorial forest officials on Wednesday booked eight accused, including nephew of state minister Manohar Naik.

Villagers had on Monday night nabbed the poachers but Washim police released them on Tuesday when they found that Anil Naik, the minister's nephew, was one among them.

The villagers of Jambharun and Kajalamba in Washim district had nabbed Naik and seven others with a net, rifle, dead blackbuck, an autorickshaw and a new red coloured vehicle.
Police released all the poachers on Tuesday due to alleged political pressure. On the other hand, wildlife officials preferred to close eyes till Tuesday night.

However, talking to TOI, Akola deputy conservator of forests (DyCF) A R Moon did not confirm whether Naik's kin was among those booked but said eight poachers have been slapped with sections 9 and 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
"We have launched a hunt for the culprits," he added.
On Monday, the poachers had entered near the agriculture fields between Jambharun and Kajalamba in Washim district. They fired from the gun and also used a search light near the field of a farmer Rameshwar Undare. Undare immediately alerted other villagers of Jambharun.The villagers rushed to the area and nabbed Naik and his five friends Shekhar Rathod, Sanket Pawar, Thakur Rathod, Vinod Chavan and Bhimrao Chavan.

The poachers who had kept the carcass in an autorickshaw threw the blackbuck when they saw the mob around. However, Naik and his friends were in a Sumo vehicle which did not have a number plate. The police squad from Ansingh police station including Pratap Chavhan, Kishor Markad, Babalu Khan and Narayan Jadhav reached the spot after an hour. Villagers then handed over Naik and five offenders to police with the blackbuck, equipment and vehicles.

Police reported the incident to forest officials on Tuesday morning who later conducted spot panchnama. They later sent the carcass for post mortem. Wildlife officers at Nagpur preferred to keep mum.

The blackbuck is a Schedule I animal and as per the Act there is a provision of upto 7 years imprisonment for such wildlife crime. Some nature lovers took up the matter with Satpuda Foundation, an NGO working for wildlife protection in Central India. Kishor Rithe, president of Satpuda Foundation, spoke to senior officers on Tuesday evening and found them ignorant of this serious wildlife offence. Rithe contacted principal secretary (forests) and chief wildlife warden and demanded to book the offenders under Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

It has been learned that the poachers were habitual and usually poached blackbucks in this area. The Karanja Sohol blackbuck sanctuary is in Washim district.

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