Hyderabad: Through a meticulously planned operation that lasted for two weeks, the Mulugu police busted an interstate tiger skin smugglers racket on the International Tiger Day (July 29). Meanwhile, the Telangana forest department officials informed their counterparts in Chhattisgarh about the tiger skin recovered and requested them to identify the tiger which was killed.
Earlier, revealing the details of the arrested smugglers, Mulugu district superintendent of police Sangram Singh Patil said, “The smuggler Thirumalesh used to visit his father-in-law Satyam's place in Chandur village in Tarlaguda mandal of Chhattisgarh state. Thirumalesh, who hails from Telangana shifted to Chhattisgarh after marriage. A month ago, Thirumalesh received a call from 'prime' suspects Manoj and Sagar regarding the sale of a tiger skin and asked Thirumalesh to look for prospective buyers in Telangana, following which Thirumalesh contacted one more person in Telangana who offered to buy the tiger skin for Rs 30 lakh.”
The Mulugu police lured the tiger skin smugglers into their trap by acting as potential buyers. The police team received a tip off regarding illegal sale of tiger skin by the smugglers. Subsequently, the police in a decoy operation, contacted the smugglers over phone 12 days ago. After rigorous pursuing and exchange of over a hundred phone calls between the two parties, a deal was struck for Rs 50 lakh after gaining the confidence of the smugglers. The smugglers clearly fell into the trap of the police and took the bait.
Subsequently, the team lured, both Thirumalesh and Satyam to Mullakatta bridge on the pretext of buying the tiger skin and apprehended them red-handed.
"During the investigation, we found that this was the first time Thirumalesh was involved as a middleman to sell tiger skin. Whether there is the involvement of organised syndicate is a subject of thorough investigation and yet to be ascertained," said K Kiran Kumar, circle inspector of Eturunagaram, who spearheaded the operation, told this newspaper.
The Mulugu police handed over the investigation to Telangana forest department as the offence attracts several penal provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and further investigation is underway.
Usually, tigers can be identified with the help of pug marks and stripes. So far in the investigation, it was revealed that tiger skin recovered by the Mulugu police could be mostly from Chhattisgarh area. The forest authorities opine the particular tiger must be from a habitat along Indravati river. The skin belongs to a sub adult tiger aged 2-3 years. A team of forest officials led by Eturunagaram forest division officer (FDO) J. Gopal Rao, along with a veterinary doctor, checked the seized and certified it as authentic tiger skin....