|A Gujarat model that works
THE INDIAN EXPRESS
June 13, 2014
Modi’s commitment to wildlife conservation in the state must carry over to his term as PM.
has been a summer marked by intense political heat. I will stick my
neck out and suggest that the new government must look towards Gujarat
to draw some lessons in wildlife conservation. I write this from my
first-hand experience of working with the Gujarat government in the
infamous lions poaching case of 2007. This is one case that has no
parallel in the history of wildlife crime investigations in India, and
I feel proud to have been part of it. Let me recount the episode first.
a period of one month between February and March 2007, some gangs of
organised poachers from Madhya Pradesh had killed eight Asiatic lions
in and around the Gir National Park in Gujarat. The case caused a
furore in Gujarat and also in the wildlife conservation community in
the country. So much so that the then chief minister of Gujarat,
Narendra Modi, visited the area twice. In my two and a half decades on
the job, I have not known any other instance of a CM visiting a
poaching spot. He not only instructed the Crime Investigation
Department to take over the investigation of the case, but made all
resources available to the CID. The investigations were led by the then
IGP of the CID, Keshav Kumar, who used conventional investigation
techniques as well as modern technological interfaces to crack the
case. J.M. Vyas, the director of the Gujarat Forensic Laboratory, also
visited the crime scenes and deputed a team of 15 forensic experts, led
by Deputy Director Dahiya, to assist the CID.
team of experts meticulously collected samples for forensic analysis.
In March, the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) got a call
from the Gujarat CID seeking assistance. Initially, WPSI Executive
Director Belinda Wright helped the police and then put me on the case.
We provided some clues regarding the possible appearance and features
of suspects, on the basis of which the Gujarat police soon picked up a
few suspects from Una and Girgadhada towns. The CID team recovered some
SIM cards, phone numbers and one spring trap from them. The
investigators collected dirt from the fingernails of the accused and
sent it to the forensic laboratory in Gandhinagar, which found
lion-blood traces in the dirt. The DNA matched that from lion parts
recovered at the crime scene. This was the first breakthrough in