Melghat, Maharashtra: It's a one of a kind cybercrime cell, unique because it focuses on tracking cases of wildlife poaching. The Melghat wildlife crime cell in Maharashtra is the first in the country under the forest department and was instrumental in arresting 34 people in one case of tiger poaching including an accused called Ranjeet who was arrested from Andhra Pradesh after his movements were monitored for months at a stretch. Ranjeet had been on the radar of different law enforcement agencies across India including the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI. Ranjeet and another accused based out of the capital, Surajpal, were accomplices of the notorious poacher Sansar Chand.
Nodal Officer at Cyber Cell Parikshit Dambhare, who spent many hours a day tracking Ranjeet explains, "Tracking Ranjeet took eight days, 16 hours per day. It was very difficult to track him as he kept changing his phones."
The chase led the team to Haryana and Delhi before they finally nabbed Ranjeet in Andhra Pradesh. Apart from cash, tiger traps were also recovered from the accused.
"We got CDR data. We got to know they were a big gang and they were moving from one part of the country to another. The people of Dhakna (involved in poaching case in Melghat) sold the skin and bones to Punjab, then Haryana, then Delhi. Tiger traps were recovered. Rs 50 lakh were recovered from Surajpal in Delhi too. His bail plea has also been rejected twice since his arrest," Vishal Mali, assistant conservator of forest (ACF), Melghat told NDTV.
The efforts seem to be paying off. Crucial forensic evidence, diligently collected and linked to the accused has meant that the Melghat cell has already secured its first conviction in just over a year which is why other states like Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are also seeking their assistance to track poachers preying in their parks.