Outside Hyderabad, the capital of southern India's Telangana state, outside was pitch black and with dawn fast approaching, Venkateshwarlu was determined to reach his destination. And though the wet, soggy terrain slowed him down along with the blackness of the night, made his teams progress difficult, he pushed ahead through the dense foliage.
Venkateshwarlu is one of the top forest official from the Kumram Bheem-Asifabad (KBA) Forest Range kept moving forward, the utmost thought in his mind was to reach the spot where a few local people had reported seeing tiger paw prints, called pugmarks, in the area.
Even while urging the expert pugmark trackers with him to move faster, the forest official armed only with his flashlight had one goal – to reach the spot before poachers got to this tiger, or before the poachers could ambushed Venkateshwarlu and his team.
With the price of Tiger parts selling so high on the black market poachers are now considered armed and dangerous, and these poachers are not unkown to his men.
The unarmed KBA team know the risk they take, but they were on a mission to prevent the killers from getting active again. They knew it would not be long before poachers, who reportedly had begun hunting tigers in the neighboring Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve of Maharashtra, stepped into Telangana.
The Forest Department, spends good money for informers and the information they have provided has caused KBA to step up surveillance and every KBA team member working the forests of Telangana had been placed on high alert.
According to officials, camps have been set up deep in the forest to keep a watch on poachers, detect traps and prevent smuggling. Secret search operations, officials say, are being carried out in the KBA Forests, to keep poachers at bay, apart from missions not unlike the one on which Venkateshwarlu was currently on.
“We have alerted our officers about the chances of poaching in our forests, since a few tigers have recently migrated here from Tadoba. We have intensified patrolling and have traced every movement of the animals through camera traps and other traditional methods,” a forest official said.
If not from local poachers, the threat could be from those currently operating in the Tadoba tiger reserve, they believe, pointing out that poachers too could be following the big cats through the tiger corridor from Maharashtra into Telangana.
Forest officials say poaching involves three steps.
B Praveena, District Forest Officer, said a tiger normally takes two to five days to eat its kill, depending on the size of the prey. “If the poachers find the half-eaten carcass, they target the tiger when it comes to eat the remaining part or poison the meat, so that they can get at the tiger without exposing themselves to danger.”