Forest department sources said Kannan, a guard in the PN Palayam range had taken four armed poachers into the forest in an official jeep. The vehicle got stuck in mud, forcing Kannan to hire an earthmover to extricate the vehicle. This spilled the beans, and police arrested the gang and recovered licensed arms and ammunition.
Kannan took the poachers to the Thadagam area. But soon the jeep got stuck in mud. The guard called up an earthmover operator in Thadagam. When the earthmover came into the forests it made such a fuss that officials came to know of it.
The range officer arrived at the spot and seized a licensed weapon with a live round of ammunition from Sakthivel and Balamurugan. They were arrested on October 30.
Environmentalists said that instead of taking punitive action against Kannan, the authorities transferred him to the Nilgiris south forest division. Similarly, no action was taken against the other accused, Mohankumar and Venkatesh.
Cases were not filed against the offenders under non-bailable provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act. A senior forest officer conceded that Kannan was known for resorting to such activities. He was earlier transferred from Udumalpet to PN Palayam Range on a similar charge, he said.
Coimbatore conservator I Anwardeen played down the incident, saying the guard had travelled in the vehicle to drive away some elephants. “There was no poaching but when rumours spread about the guard aiding poachers, we shifted him to the Nilgiris south division.”
Poaching is not unknown in the region. A similar incident was reported in Veerapandi near Thadagam last Friday, where three men identified as Ravi, Ayyasamy and Sivaraj were nabbed while trying to hunt black-naped hare and wild boar.
Anwardeen said the men were nabbed outside the forest. Wild boar, he said, was a menace here, damaging crops. The men were employed by farmers to kill wild boars straying on to private land.
Conservationists said two incidents happening within a fortnight was a matter of concern. Across the state such incidents are on the rise and the department has to increase vigil on the movement of unwanted elements into the forest areas, they said.