Op Belur Makhna: Wayanad RRT members force out glorified 'poacher' invited by Forest Dept

Nawab Shafath Ali Khan (centre) with team members at Sulthan Bathery in Wayanad on Thursday. Photo: Special arrangement

Wayanad: Hyderabad-based sharpshooter Nawab Shafath Ali Khan, who had landed in Wayanad on Thursday at the behest of top officials in the Forest Department had to pack up on Friday due to widespread protest from members of the Rapid Response Team (RRT).

The Wayanad RRT, which is an efficient unit, is known for its acumen in tranquillizing and translocating more than a hundred animals that troubled humans, including wild tuskers Arikomban, Kalloor Komban and PM2.

Recently, popular veterinarian Dr Arun Zachariah who was recalled to the Department of Animal Husbandry from the Department of Forest and Wildlife, was re-inducted to the RRT on the direction of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan after a high-level meeting.

He is now part of a special team in place to capture Belur Makhna, a wild elephant that trampled to death a Wayanad native. The animal continues to evade capture by slipping between the forest areas of Kerala and Karnataka and recently, a team from the Kerala Forest Department was denied permission to enter their jurisdiction by their Karnataka counterparts.

The RRT members were upset by the arrival of Khan and the team at the Forest headquarters in Sulthan Bathery to join their mission. Khan and two of his team members entered the forest and also interacted with RRT members on how to deal with rogue elephants. However, upset by the decision to land Khan, a few key members of the RRT backed off from the mission in protest. With more members of RRT joining the protest later, Khan and the team had to return.

The animal was previously spotted over the past two days in the Bairakuppa forest region of Karnataka. Photo: Screengrab: Manorama News.

A forest official who preferred anonymity told Onmanorama that “after all he (Nawab Shafath Ali Khan) is only a glorified poacher”. “Let him stay outside the forest, there is no space for such shooters and poachers in the mission of a specially trained team of the Forest Department.”

The RRT member refuted the allegation that their failure to capture the elephant led to the arrival of Khan. He said they were patient with the mission as the RRT members were not poachers or hunters. “We have to follow the national and international guidelines of various agencies and act in tune with state forest borders. We have expressed our protest that we will not act in tune with such shady characters who are free to kill. We would only be killing an animal if all other options fail.”

Meanwhile, attempts by Onmanorama to contact PCCF D Jayaprasad on the induction of the shooter into the RRT did not yield results.

With a controversial track record, Khan invited the wrath of nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts by killing tigress Avni in 2018 in Maharashtra. The animal had reportedly killed 11 humans. There were allegations that he killed the tigress without attempting to tranquilise it and also took hasty action without confirming if the killer animal was indeed Avni. Khan later justified that though he fired tranquillizer darts, they missed and he had to drive in metal bullets as the animal charged at his team.

Khan has displayed a habit of taking photographs in front of the carcass of the animals he killed. Recently his team hit headlines in Kerala by killing five wild boars at Kodancherry in Kozhikode district.

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