“Rabbits are a delicacy. So is deer meat. We get many requests from politicians and officials for deer meat”
Most of us are tribals and have an instinct about animals. But we no longer carry bows and arrows. We use double-barrel guns that can kill a wild animal in one shot. We also use snares, place traps and use poison. We even steal young ones by distracting their mothers.
Though most tribals work as forest watchmen on daily wages, we have no permanent jobs. We know it is illegal to hunt or kill, but the demand for animal parts makes us do it.
The forest and police officials are always after us. Sometimes, NGO staffers and officials pose as buyers to trap us. Some of us are privy to wireless messages, so we track the movement of officials.
It could take days to track a tiger. And a single shot is all we can afford. That’s why a lot of us prefer to poison animals. Sometimes, we poison a kill (normally, a calf) to attract the big cats. Once dead, it takes us just a few minutes to remove the pelts. It is a dirty job but we have the expertise to do it.
I can’t say the same about our children. This is a school-going generation which has lost its basic instincts. They can’t even walk alone in the forest or pick up firewood.
In any case, it has become difficult to loot the forest. Earlier, we could help ourselves to precious wood or medicinal herbs. Now, even fallen trees are to be left alone.
Animal parts fetch big money abroad. We only get a few thousand rupees. But I can’t complain. Most of us use the money to buy mobile phones.
Rabbits are a delicacy. So is deer meat. We get many requests from politicians and officials for deer meat. If we don’t deliver, they might fix us in some case. We have to toe their line.
(This poacher, in his late thirties, belongs to a tribal hamlet in the Kollegal forests of Karnataka. A case is pending against him for allegedly shooting a tiger).