Karnataka's Bandipur Tiger Reserve officials have detained three Portuguese nationals for trespassing into the forest range without permission amid lockdown on Sunday evening.
"They have not been arrested but have been detained for interrogation. They said they wrongly entered the park," T Balachandra, Conservator of Forests and Field Director, Project Tiger, Bandipur, said.
An official from the tiger reserve photographed the Portuguese trespassing. The three men entered the park on three bikes, wearing shorts and sunglasses.
Incidentally, they entered the park on Sunday when it was shut, adhering to the COVID-19 lockdown rules. The three Portuguese nationals are Nuno Ricardo Bernardes Miranda Paciencia, Angelo Miguel Garrido and Tomas Pinho Marquez.
The trio told Forest Department officials that they were in Bengaluru for the maintenance and repair of an aircraft control system belonging to a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and even showed officials a letter stating the same. However, forest officials told them that they were not supposed to leave Bengaluru.
"We have written to the DRDO asking for clarification over their claims. They will be kept in detention till we receive word from them about their role in Bengaluru," Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) Ravi Kumar told TNM.
The two-wheelers the trio used have been seized and they are now in the custody of the Forest Department. A forest offence relating to trespassing into a tiger reserve was registered against them. According to sources, their visa validity was until April but they had to stay back due to the lockdown in India. They will remain in detention until their identity is verified, officials said.