Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Nayagarh/Daspalla, Jul 2:
The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) of Odisha on Wednesday cracked the whip on the attempt by some ground levels forest staff to pass off the death of an elephant as that of a buffalo, suspending three forest staff and seeking a report on the incident from the Divisional Forest Officer (Territorial), Nayagarh.
The PCCF SS Srivastava directed the DFO to inquire into the matter and submit a report within three days. The three forest guards who have been placed under suspension are– Sanatan Swain, Akshay Mallik and Prakash Chandra Pal.
On June 17, carcass of a male elephant was reportedly found in Chadheiyapalli reserve forest under Daspalla range in Nayagarh district. It was alleged that elephant poachers had killed the jumbo and had taken out the ivory.
After getting information, Kanapaku villagers along with Alok Senapati from Daspalla, local Zilla Parishad member Kishore Chandra Dalabehera, forest guard Akshay Mallik and others visited the site. At least 10 forest staff, including Sanatan Swain and Prakash Chandra Pal, along with villagers were already present at the spot and found the highly decomposed body of the tusker. One of them had videographed and taken still pictures of the dead animal. Seeing this, the villagers, including the now-suspended forest staff, pulled away from the spot.
During the recent state-wide elephant census, the enumerators came to know about the death of an elephant from villagers on June 25. Two days before this, ‘Sambad’ had published a detailed report on this. However, the DFO had feigned ignorance about the incident then.
Later, two ACFOs were sent to the spot for investigation. But the local forest staff allegedly did not cooperate with the investigating team. They tried to cover up the incident taking advantage of the fact that the body had been burnt and buried by then.
Interestingly, the forest staff told the probe team that the carcass was that of a buffalo.
Daspalla resident Alok Senapati and Zilla Parishad member Kishore Chandra Dalabehera and others on Wednesday filed a written complaint with the PCCF in this regard. They also submitted the video footage and photographs of the dead elephant as evidence.
Soon after, the PCCF asked the Nayagarh DFO to inquire into the matter. Besides, he assured the complainants of a Crime Branch inquiry into the incident.