It’s confusing for a layman to understand if any species they desire comes under the Wildlife Protection Act or not. We are not bothered. If someone wants an animal dead or alive, my job is to provide it to them.
The top smugglers in the animal trade have huge houses and SUVs. It is wrong to imagine us in tattered clothes, with a knife in one hand and muzzle loader in the other.
Poaching is an organised racket. You will be surprised to know, or maybe not, that there are politicians and businessmen who want sand boas, leopard cubs, jackal cubs, ivory tusks and other animal parts in the belief that possessing these will bring wealth or ward off evil.
There is great demand for elephant hair to be inserted in finger rings. Do you think we can pluck hair from an elephant’s tail? We get it by paying off mahouts.
There is also a growing interest in wild meat. Politicians love deer meat and we supply it to resorts where they stay. There is huge demand from China for tiger parts, claws of wild animals and skins. Though it’s a risk, we can get things done if we have the patience. We are helped by tribals who lay traps and hunt animals for us.
Every year, some new fad surfaces. It is believed that worshipping sand boas, which appear to have heads at both ends, multiplies wealth. It is also believed that possessing a pair of ivory tusks with a minimum length of six feet enables candidates to win elections. All this is good for our business.
Buyers should have good connections, otherwise they will end up with fakes. There is a tribe called ‘hakki pikkis’ in Karnataka which used to kill animals for a living, but they now mostly make imitation tiger skins and other animal parts from non-tissue and hides of dead cows and buffaloes. They are our real competition.
(This poacher runs a pet shop as a façade in Bangalore)
As told to Anil Budur Lulla