An inquiry report of a tiger and leopard poaching incident from 2017 has named 11 Uttarakhand Forest Department officials and workers, including Rajaji Tiger Reserve director Sanatan Sonkar and an Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) deployed in the national park, for allegedly fabricating information and hiding evidence of poaching.
On March 22, 2017, a Dehradun forest division team found meat, bones and a leopard skin near Motichur range of Rajaji Tiger Reserve.
The Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute if India (WII) later found that the meat and bones were of two tigers and two leopards.
On Wednesday, Chief Conservator of Forests Manoj Chandran submitted the inquiry report on the poaching incident to the state government, the Forest Department, and the CJM court in Dehradun. Chandran was the investigating officer (IO) for the case between June 2017 and January this year.
The report states: “After receiving information on the poaching, Sanatan Sonkar allegedly forced his subordinates to frame a couple of social activists. He tried to hide evidence recovered from the spot. His alleged crimes fall under sections 107 (abetment), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence), 202 (intentional omission to give information of offence) of Indian Penal Code (IPC).”
While the ACF could not be reached for a comment. Sonkar told The Indian Express, “I haven’t read the report yet, so I will not be able to comment on it. Since Manoj Chandran is no more the IO, I don’t think his report has any meaning any more.”
The report names 14 hunters for violations under Wildlife Protection Act, IPC, and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Besides Sonkar, the ACF, two range officers and a government veterinary doctor, the report names six other Forest Department officers and workers for similar alleged crime, and for “involvement, negligence, attempt to destroy evidence, and fabricating information”.
The ACF also tried to hide evidence and did not cooperate in the probe, it stated. “He tortured an informer of the Forest Department and kept the informer under illegal confinement, gave him electric shocks and took his signatures on a blank paper,” it notes.
The report also notes the presence of a global circuit of poachers and traders.