While the hacking of the iridium satellite collar of a tiger located in the Satpura reserve in Madhya Pradesh has been traced to an IP address located in Pune, the failure of the relevant authorities to file an FIR has stalled the process of identifying the real perpetrator of the crime.
But the news of the act has provoked a debate on whether poaching has just gotten hi-tech or too much is being read into a mere prank.
|Picture for representation only
An RTI query by the Bhopal-based wildlife activist Ajay Dubey, revealed that at a high-level meeting on September 16, between officials of the Wild Life Institute of India (WLII), Dehradun and Madhya Pradesh Wild Life Department, K Ramesh, scientist at WLII, informed that the iridium satellite collar of a tiger tagged Panna-211 had stopped working since July 24 this year.
He added that this was due to somebody in Pune hacking into the radio-collar’s account on WLII’s site. Besides Ramesh, the meeting was attended by the Field Director of Satpura Tiger Reserve, R P Singh, Field Director of Panna Tiger Reserve, R Shriniwas Murthy, the Chief Forest Conservator (Wildlife), Bhopal, C K Patil and Upper Prinicipal Chief Conservator (Information Technology) Dharmendra Shukla.
As per the response to the RTI, it was decided at the meeting that WLII, being the body responsible for tagging tigers with radio collars would file an FIR against the cyber crime committed and also investigate how the collar got switched off.
However, when Mirror connected with Ramesh, on the issue, he said, “It is the responsibility of the Madhya Pradesh Wildlife Department.” Narendra Kumar, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife and Chief Warden of Madhya Pradesh rebuffed, “It is WLII’s responsibility as they are handling the radio collars.”
While this passing the buck has kept out the police out of the loop, there is a sense of disbelief even among wildlife activists that the Pune guy was working as part of any organised poaching racket.
“Generally, poaching is done by Beheliya and Bawria tribes of Madhya Pradesh and Haryana and these are illiterate people,” noted Nitin Desai, the Nagpurbased Director of the NGO Central India Wildlife Protection Society of India, refusing to believe that poachers had the wherewithal to hack collar accounts. “I think somebody may have played a prank,” he insisted.
Girish Punjabi, member, Researchers for Wildlife Conservation, concurred. “To call it poaching seems far fetched since there are so many local informants tracking the movement of tigers in reserved forest areas. They don’t need technology.
Also, a collared tiger is constantly monitored by authorities, why would anybody run the risk of getting caught?” asked Vidya Athreya, a wildlife researcher with Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS), Bangalore. “I am extremely puzzled as to why anyone would hack into one tiger’s collar,” said noted environmentalist Madhav Gadgil.
However, Ajay Dubey, the man whose PIL egged the Supreme Court to impose a temporary ban on tourism in tiger reserves last year, thinks differently. “International gangs are running these poaching rackets.
The tribes involved are just foot soldiers. When poaching rackets are busted these people get arrested, while the white-collared who actually run the show never get caught,” he argued.
He also pointed out how the programme for radio-collaring adult tigers in the region was actively pursued after 35 tigers died between 2004 and 2009, when the National Tiger Conservation Authority declared Panna Tiger Reserve to be bereft of any tiger.
“Hacking into the tracking system the poachers can be privy to the information, making it easier for them to locate the tigers,” he added.
Upset by the authorities’ failure to file an FIR, Dubey's NGO is now gearing to approach the DGP of Madhya Pradesh to take action against the cyber crime committed. Not surprisingly, the Pune police have not heard from their counterparts in Bhopal on the matter.
►► Tribes involved are just foot soldiers. When poaching rackets are busted these people get arrested, while the white-collared who run the show never get caught
- Ajay Dubey, Bhopal-Based, Wildlife Activist