HYDERABAD: The Telangana forest department on Tuesday suspended a deputy range officer for allegedly letting off a tiger poacher despite being caught with Nilgai meat on December 31 last year. The forest officer was also charged with negligence leading to sand mining at Pembi forest beat, the core area of Kawal Tiger Reserve.
Forest department officials said in charge DRO of Pembi in Nirmal district identified as Hafeezuddin spotted Nilgai hunting and seized 10kg meat on December 31 from the house of Guglavath Prakash, a resident of Tatiguda of Pembi. He neither booked a wildlife offense case against the accused nor reported the seizure to higher officials. Prakash, who was let off, turned out to be the main accused in the tiger poaching case in Ichoda of Kawal two months ago.
Kawal Tiger Reserve field director C Saravanan told TOI, “The poaching took place in November 2018 and based on the information given by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and Traffic India, we arrested Prakash on January 5 when he was looking for buyers. Had officer Hafeez been dutiful and vigilant, Prakash would have been arrested on December 31 itself. The intention of the officer to keep the meat with him without arresting the accused is suspicious. He may have done it for personal benefits.”
Forest officials alleged that Hafeezuddin took Rs 50,000 bribe from Prakash. Forest officials said the Nilgai on December 31 and tiger in November 2018 died of electrocution.
“Prakash set up a wire at 3.5 kilometers by tapping power from the nearby transformer. The trap wire was set up in a zigzag manner due to which it is difficult for animals to escape,” said an investigating official of the forest department. The beat officer and section officer will also be suspended as they accompanied the DRO.
Meanwhile, in the tiger poaching case, police arrested five persons including Prakash’s brother-in-law Muniya.