KOCHI: The Kerala Police will soon start an exclusive Wildlife Crime Division under the Crime Branch to tackle the rising atrocities against animals - a first of its kind initiative in the country. The Forest Department too will be taken on board.
The decision was taken in the wake of the swelling wildlife crime cases and the presence of automatic weapons, including AK series rifles, in such incidents. Police suspect the active interest and participation of militant groups in illegal wildlife trade.
State Police Chief Loknath Behera said though Section 50, Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, empowers the police to investigate wildlife crime cases, setting up a joint platform with the Forest Department would bring better results.
“The organised wildlife mafia is spreading its tentacles in the state and the trade has become a transnational business,” said Behera.
The idea was mooted during a wildlife symposium organised for police officers at the police headquarters in connection with the screening of ‘Gods in Shackles’ a documentary by Sangita Iyer.
According to the Forest Department statistics, around 745 cases under Kerala Forest Act and 228 cases under Wildlife Protection Act, 51 cases under Section 61 (A) of the Act and 194 cases under various other Acts were registered in 2014, taking the total number of such cases registered in 2014 to 43,450. Among them, only 208 cases were disposed of.
A senior officer said the department has limitations to take the wildlife cases forward, citing the Edamalayar poaching case. Despite booking almost all the accused, he said, the department could not investigate their link with the international tusk dealers.
‘Eagle’ Rajan and Umesh Agarwal, the accused, are out on bail now and the department has sought a CBI inquiry.