The apprehended miscreants who were poaching inside protected park areas in the high altitude zones of JSWNP were caught after officials recovered one of the culprit’s CID from the vicinity of the crime scene
Poaching in the country, like in many other nations, is fast becoming rampant with reports of confiscation and clandestine incidents happening frequently, especially across the government reserved forests.
With the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS), Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) taking poachers and illegal wildlife traders head on, it has in the recent times, apprehended many culprits involved in the illegal practice. Most miscreants were caught in the act within the government reserved forests or within the protected areas.
In the most recent case, a team of forest officials from Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (JSWNP) in Trongsa, while on patrol in the park areas, especially those in the high altitude caught and apprehended four poachers. According to the park officials, the surveillance team despatched earlier in November this year, encountered the poachers at the base of the Black Mountain in the place called Joe Dorshingla.
Joe Dorshingla, about three days walking from the park head office in Trongsa is situated 4,925 meters above the sea level in the deep jungles, away from any human settlements. Except for the rugged terrain, fenced by the towering mountains on all four sides, secluded in the heart of wilderness, the place offered just the right environment for the poachers.
JSWNP park manager Kezang Wangchuk said they suspected poaching in the area since a very long time. Although the park has been carrying out regular anti-poaching patrolling, due to its inaccessibility, the poachers used it to their advantage.
Upon investigation, the park’s anti-poaching team found that the poachers were involved in illegally killing atleast three musk deer and two Monal pheasant birds. In addition, the park officials have also confiscated bags of bush, musk deer pods and feathers of Monal pheasants.
The crime also includes killing of an additional two female and one male musk deer, and another one male Monal pheasant.
The park manager said that it was during the second visit in the same area that the patrol team was able to nab the poachers. During a routine patrol, forest officials saw a group of poachers pitching tents and drying up the meat from a kill.
He said the poachers fled from their camp and hid within the thick jungle as soon as they were aware of the forest officials’ presence. The forest officials could not catch them then, but fortunately, the park manager seized their belongings left behind including the poached items, like musk pod, feathers and carcasses, among others.
Officials recovered a citizenship identity card (CID) from the belongings of the miscreants that belonged to one of the poachers, and that eventually provided them with the lead and vital evidence in tracking all the poachers. “While searching their luggage, we recovered a citizenship identity card that they have left behind,” the park manager said.
Officials learned that the poachers had entered the park illegally, with the sole intention of poaching, and all of them are from Baelangdra under Khazhi gewog in Wangduephodrang.
Meanwhile, the forest patrol team confiscated all the items which were then surrendered to the forest head office in Thimphu.
According to an ornithologist, Monal pheasants are not common to the world and the population of such species, in most of its range, is threatened due to poaching and other anthropogenic factors. The Himalayan Monal pheasant is found only in eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, India, southern Tibet, and Bhutan.
Earlier, when the team went to the same place, the park manager said that they didn’t sense any signs of poaching in the area. It was only when a group of team went to Joe Dorshingla for a bio-diversity survey that they encountered and uncovered a lot of traps and snares set for capturing wildlife. The park officials said they destroyed and dismantled all the traps and initiated regular high altitude patrolling in the area.
“We usually come across many traps during our bio-diversity survey trips,” he said, adding they ensure that all of the traps are dismantled or rendered harmless to the wildlife. He also confirmed that both the musk deer and Monal pheasants, the victim of the recent poaching, were killed by traps set up in numerous areas.
He also said that poaching usually occurs towards October and November.
The anti-poaching patrol team has been mapping the routes and seasons of poaching with support from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) based in Bhutan.
The firm laws in place are expected to curb poaching and illegal wildlife trade in the country which has increased in recent times.
It is estimated that there are around 100 tigers in Bhutan and the global tiger population is estimated to be around 3,062 to 3,948. In early 2008, Bhutanese forest officials found pug marks and photographic evidence that tigers in Bhutan found at the snowline.
Meanwhile, Forest Protection and Surveillance Unit (FPSU) in their study ruled out that poaching is a low risk and high value profession where poachers escape with flexible penalties after being caught.
In their findings, the most pressing issues in wildlife trade is the Asian big cat Royal Bengal tiger, snow leopard, leopard cat, musk deer for musk pod, and Himalayan Black bear for its paws. FPSU has also caught poachers trading in elephant and rhinoceros parts being moved to China through Bhutan from India.
As per the FPSU official, in some situation, Bhutan has become a route of trading illegal wildlife parts, especially of elephants and rhinoceros. “Poachers in Bhutan are increasingly into such illegal act as the demand from Chinese counterpart increase.”
The old law according to the FPSU was not acting as deterrence to poachers. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, as per its recent notice, has significantly raised the poaching fines and penalties, with the sole intention of discouraging poaching.