An undercover operation by officers of the Karnataka Forest Department busted a massive ivory smuggling racket on Monday.
Range Forest Officer of Chikkamagaluru’s Lakkavalli Range, Kantharaju, and his team approached a gang of poachers by posing as buyers of ivory tusks in the black market.
“We had been investigating poachers in the Lakkavalli Range for quite some time now. On Sunday night, we received accurate information from our sources that a gang involved in killing animals and selling valuable tusks, horns and bones was operating in Tarikere area,” Kantharaju said.
Kantharaju contacted one of the smugglers from this gang and took his team with him to pay him a visit. On Sunday night, the forest officers arrested Shivamogga Satish, Basavanna from Tarikere and his brother Ravi.
“We are still looking for two more members of the gang who ran away after we busted the racket,” he added.
The officers seized 4 kg of elephant tusks, 16.5 kg of deer horns, 4.5 kg of wild boar horns and 11 kg of manis (pangolin) shells.
“We suspect that this gang operates in the Malenadu range and in the Bhadra Tiger Reserve as well. These poachers have killed hundreds of animals and have been selling the tusks, horns, shells and bones obtained from the dead animals to buyers in foreign countries. By busting this racket, we suspect that this is a larger racket and we will continue probing in that direction,” a forest officer said.
The Department will use the recovered animal parts as evidence. “Once the case is closed, we will either give the recovered parts to state-run educational institutes to preserve them or we will burn the tusks and horns as these items cannot be sold,” Kantharaju added.
On June 27, the Bengaluru City Police had busted an ivory-smuggling racket and arrested six men in connection with it, in a secret operation. Khader Basha, the leader of the gang, who is believed to be a DMK functionary, was also arrested.