India, August 3, 2023: In a major breakthrough, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) has successfully dismantled an illegal tiger trade syndicate and apprehended its key orchestrator. The operation involved the arrest of Mr. Mishram Jakhad, a former field officer of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), who was found to be at the center of the illicit trade of tiger body parts.
The operation, which began with a red alert issued by the WCCB on July 29, 2023, led to the apprehension of five offenders in possession of a tiger’s skin and bones in Guwahati on June 28, 2023. Following the seizure and subsequent arrests, the case was handed over to the WCCB due to its multi-state ramifications. The WCCB swiftly formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the matter.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the seized tiger body parts originated from the Gadchiroli region in Maharashtra. This prompted the WCCB to collaborate with the Maharashtra forest officials in a comprehensive probe. A breakthrough came when a 10-member hunting gang affiliated with the Bawariya community was apprehended in Gadchiroli. This arrest led to the discovery of leg-hold traps and additional tiger body parts, exposing a wider network.
Further investigation exposed Mr. Mishram Jakhad as a key figure behind the tiger poaching and illegal trade syndicate. Jakhad was not only found to sponsor the syndicate but also to exploit poachers and smugglers for financial gain. On July 31, 2023, a joint operation between the WCCB SIT and the Gadchiroli team resulted in Jakhad’s arrest. The operation also led to the seizure of Rs. 14.80 lakh in cash, believed to be connected to the illegal trade in tiger parts.
Shockingly, during the search, an ID card was discovered on Jakhad, revealing his previous role as a field officer with the Wildlife Protection Society of India. He confessed to his involvement in the wildlife wing of the forest department, NCT Delhi Government. Jakhad has been charged under various sections of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
While Jakhad was granted a transit bail due to his age (81 years), the investigation continues to delve into his connections with tiger poachers and smuggling networks. The WCCB SIT, in collaboration with Maharashtra forest officials, is conducting an in-depth probe under the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Furthermore, the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) is poised to join the investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, addressing the potential financial aspects of the syndicate’s operations.
This significant operation marks a significant stride towards curbing illegal wildlife trade, particularly the poaching of endangered species like tigers. It underscores the government’s commitment to safeguarding the nation’s biodiversity and bringing those responsible for such heinous activities to justice.