Villagers enter Karnataka forests with countrymade guns to feed tourists
The arrest of an armed man in Karnataka forests not far from Bengaluru has turned the focus on a growing problem: commercial hunting for wild meat.
Tourists from the city demanding “wild forest meat” are said to be driving the trend. Only last week, S. Gurumuthy, 23, a suspected poacher was shot dead by Forest officials near Kanakapura in the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS).
On Sunday, Ningaraju was arrested by the Forest Department after he was found to have entered the Halaguru range of the 1,027 sq km. protected area. He was carrying a countrymade rifle, and was booked under Section 31 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The incident highlights the issue of illegal weapons. Forest officials said 23 countrymade weapons have been seized since 2014, including 11 in the past year. Of these, nearly two-thirds are from the Sangam range abutting the northern fringes towards Kanakapura.
The conversion of Kanakapura Road into a National Highway has led to the sprouting of dhabas, some of which thrive on the demand for boar, deer and rabbit meat. Forest officials said locals also provide meat to farmhouse parties.
In September, a raid on a house near the sanctuary revealed deer meat and guns, and previous raids on hotels exposed wild pig hunting. “The fact that local people now enter forests daily, rather than once a week indicates growing commercial hunting,” said Ashwin Gurusrikar, Chairman, Vanodaya, which works in CWS. Many are tapping the illegal country-made gun market.
Several illegal guns
Foresters estimate that over 5,000 illegal countrymade guns exist in Ramanagaram area. The State government’s Arms Licensing System says only one out of 1,516 gun licences was renewed. “We are making seizures. We want Police to investigate the guns,” said P. Ramesh Kumar, DCF, Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
“Meanwhile, highway meat sale goes on after Sathnur. On Saturday, locals with guns entered forests,” said Mr. Gurusrikar.