Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government on Thursday June 16 formed a special investigation team (SIT) to probe deaths of elephants in Athagarh forest division in Cuttack district, officials said.
Regional chief conservator of forests (Angul circle) has been appointed as chairman of the SIT while a conservator of forest and an officer of special task force (STF) of Odisha crime branch not below the rank of the DSP are other two members of the probe panel, as per an order issued by the forest, environment and climate change department of Odisha.
Notably, the STF of Odisha crime branch had exhumed skeletal remains of two elephants from two sites in the forest division on June 2 and 3, respectively.
Similarly, body parts of another elephant, suspected to have been killed and buried, were exhumed on June 14 by forest officials. The suppression of elephant deaths in the forest division has brought under scanner the roles of senior officers.
“The recovery of skull and skeleton of two elephants on June 2 & 3 inside a single Beat area of one section in Badamba range indicates that there is a serious lapse by the departmental staff and it has given rise to allegations of their connivance and wilful concealment of facts,” read the order.
The SIT will carry out a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the instant recovery of skull and skeleton of elephants keeping in view various angles such as alleged connivance of staff, criminal negligence and willful concealment of facts, officials said.
The SIT will ascertain whether there are more such occurrences in the division. They will go into details of forward and backward linkages and examine the involvement of inter-state organised wildlife crime syndicates in these cases, they said.
The SIT, which will function under the supervision of chief conservator of forests (wildlife), has been asked to submit its report to the state government within a month.