New Delhi, Apr 19: After hunting down tigers close to disappearance in places like Sariska, the focus of poachers has now shifted to elephants in Uttaranchal.
Though ivory trade was banned in many countries, it still had a clandestine market catering to the rich and exuberant minority, according to Mr Jaya Prakash Dabral of Himalayan Chipko Foundation.
And Himalayan foothills, especially the Terai region of Uttaranchal, still had dense forests that were ideal habitat for elephants and hence a large pachyderm population, which attracted poachers, he said.
However, the state government and the forest department was sleeping, he claimed.
Forest brigand Verappan's gang apart from sandalwood smuggling was also into killing elephants for their tusks, he said and added that his operations were so well planned that today there was a lop-sided bull-cow (male-female) ratio in South India.
For every 100 elephants in South India there were only three bulls now. While in Uttaranchal's Terai region the ratio was much healthier--for every 100 elephants there are about 30 bulls.
But higher availability of bulls (that had tusks) meant more tusks for the poachers. Quietly and steadily poachers had strengthened their operations in the state.
Just as per the forest department's records 90 elephants had been killed in Uttaranchal since its formation in November 2000. This was about 20 per cent of the animal's population in the state, Mr Dabral said and alleged that many killing went unreported.
At this rate there would not be any elephants in the state in some years, he said.
recently more than seven bulls had been killed in the famous Jim Corbett National Park, their trunks had been removed after brutally sawing off the head.
Unfortunately, in the forest department's records the cause of death was not known in many cases, Mr Dabral said and alleged that the forest officials were hand-in-glove with the poachers.