Police probing human activities, ‘clean-cuts’ confuse experts

IMPHAL, 4th Dec: Though footages from CCTV cameras installed at specific locations, samples of slaughtered poultry birds and small animals and footprints of the suspected cattle attackers indicate possible involvement of large pet dogs and carnivorous animal like wild dogs, Wildlife Institute of India (WWI), Dehradun experts are in a state of confusion over actual cause of death of cattle reported in Churachandpur district.
According to Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Anurag Bajpai, cybercrime cell of Police Department has started investigation to check if there are human activities behind the killings of domestic animals and fowls.
He stated that WII experts opined that killings of domestic animals and fowls in the valley might have been done by pet dogs or other members of the canine family but human activities or attacks of a totally different animal is suspected in the way how pigs, sheeps and goats were found killed in Kakching and Churachandpur.
Addressing a press conference at forest department office, Sanjenthong here, Anurag observed that evidences collected by WII forensic experts from places of attacks in Kakching and Churachandpur indicate that the attacks were not carried out by wild animals.
If the attacks have been done by wild animals, then there should have been signs of eating the flesh as well, he reasoned.
The CCF pointed out that there were sharp cuts on the slain animals which could not have been done by wild animals. He said the police department has started investigating to find out the people who uploaded photos or videos on social media in the first place and the places of reported attacks.
He maintained that there has been decline in the number attacks on domestic animals and fowls in the valley as well as in incoming calls to the mobile numbers provided by the forest department to report killings in the past two-three days.
This is because of co-operation by livestock farmers and people towards the forest department, he added.
Pointing out that there have been 35 incidents of attacks in the valley, Anurag stated that the forest division received 40 calls in the past four days; 14 calls at central division on December 1, 31 calls on December 2, 7 calls on December 3 and 4 calls on December 4. The control room of chief wildlife warden also received 5 calls, he added.
He maintained that two attacks happened since Monday night till Tuesday 11 am; one at Thangmeiband Yumnam Leikai where two rabbits were found killed and another at Langthabal Thong Ahanbi where five chickens were killed.
He further said that eight calls were received since Monday reporting sighting of predators but the description of the predator varied from one caller to another.
The WII experts have installed 10 trap cameras till date at Sangaiprou, Langthabal, Bashikhong Kitna Panung, Wangjing, Kakching, DM College campus, Ragailong and Thambalkhong, Anurag informed, while recalling that villagers of Sawombung killed a ferret badger on Monday.
Mentioning that post-mortem report provided by veterinary department of a cow killed at Kangpokpi shows that the cow died from snake bite; he also opined that it will not be possible for wild animals to pluck out the horns of the cow.
With regard to animals found killed at Kakching where the abdominal bones were missing, the officer opined that such surgical cleaning could not have been done by wild animals.
He mentioned that members of organisations like People for Animals and Yening Animal Foundation are currently co-operating with the forest department in investigating the attacks by unknown predators.
The chief conservator of forests expressed belief that the attacks might have been done by pet dogs or other members of canine family based on the evidences of footprints, hair, fecal matter, urine, etc. collected till now and appealed to dog owners to chain their dogs during afternoon and night. This will help the investigators as dogs can be ruled out from the suspected animals if they are kept chained.
He also pointed out the possibility of attacks by animals that used to live on rats found in paddy fields.
Assuring that the department will never misinform the people, the officer conveyed that findings of investigations by experts may be out in the next two-three days. Nonetheless, he hinted at the possibility of extending the investigation so as to find out the truth, if necessary.
Chief conservator of forest Mahendra Pratap was also present during press conference.
On Monday, Vajpai quoted WWI experts as ruling out the possibility of wild animals responsible for the killing of goats, sheep and pigs in some villages of Churachandpur district in early part of November.
With reference to samples gathered by the district forest officer (DFO), Churachandpur and his team followed by examination of the remains under the supervision of the district administration and veterinary department regarding the Churachandpur incidents, he recounted that almost all the slaughtered animals bore tell-tale signs of precise wounds.
Though reports forwarded by the district administration suggested that the cattle might have been killed by some animals with sharp teeth, the WWI experts were convinced that no wild animal could make such a precise incision as found on the death cattle, the chief conservator of forest maintained.
Further stating that the WWI experts were speculative that it (killing) might be the work of something else other than wild animal, Vajpai disclosed about the experts expressing that mischievous human factor cannot be ruled out.
“The WWI experts were convinced that no wild animal can do such a precise incision. So it could be the work of something else, human being or mysterious animals, Anurag said, and corroborated the experts’ comments by pointing out that animals have teeth which tear and pull the flesh.
He, however, clarified that views shared by the WWI experts are not final as the human or mysterious animal speculations need to be substantiated.
With regard to another incident of animal attack that took place in a Tamenglong district area in October, the officer said that based on examination conducted on samples of death animals, which were collected by a joint team of Senapati and Tamenglong district administrations, veterinary experts suggested that the attacker(s) could be animal with sharp teeth.
On the other-hand, he revealed that images of CCTV installed in some select residential pockets in some valley areas showed large pet dogs attacking poultry birds, he said.
It is informed that WII scientists have begun their investigation to ascertain the nature of the unknown predators which have been killing domestic animals across the state. Four WII experts - Vikramjit Sharma, N Sharmila, Gopi GV and Aisho Sharma Adhikarimayum are already in the state to investigate the killings.
The experts, including two camera track experts, have collected footprint samples, suspected to have been left by the predator, from places where the domestic animals were killed. The samples have been sent to the WII head office for laboratory testing.

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