The Maharashtra forest department is investigating a case in which unnatural sexual acts were performed on a monitor lizard in Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (STR) in Western Ghats, India recently.
The incident came to light after the officials had arrested four persons on charges of poaching based on images from camera traps installed for tiger census.
Forest officials said they have now sought legal opinion on invoking Section 377 (Unnatural Offences) of IPC in the case, in which the provisions of Wildlife Protection Act have already been invoked.
The STR is spread in four districts of Maharashtra–Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Ratnagiri.
Officials said a number of camera traps were installed across the tiger reserve for the All India Tiger Census. Recently, before the process of retrieving these cameras from the forest area began, theft of one of the units came to light from Gothane area in Patan taluka of Satara district. This unit was then replaced.
Clement Ben, Chief Conservator of Forests said, “Around March 27-28, when our teams were examining the images captured from the camera traps, they detected illegal intrusion of some people in the protected area. Preliminary investigation suggested that the four suspects had illegally entered the forest area carrying a weapon, with a motive of poaching.”
Between April 1 and April 5, the forest officials arrested four persons, identified as Sandeep Pawar, Mangesh Kamtekar, Akshay Kamtekar and Ramesh Ghag, all residents of different places in Ratnagiri district.
Clement Ben added, “During investigation, the mobile phones of the suspects were seized. During the examination of the mobile phones, we found videos where an unnatural sexual act is being performed with a monitor lizard by one of the suspects. This type of crime against wild animals has not been reported in the past, to our knowledge. We are seeking legal opinion on invoking Section 377 of the IPC. We will soon be filing a chargesheet in the case.” In the initial phase of the investigation, police officers suspected the act was done out of a superstitious belief.
However, no lead has yet been found which suggests that, an official sai
Divisional Forest Officer Vishal Mali said, “While the video evidence shows one person committing the offence, we have reasons to believe that it has been done by more than one person among the suspects…”