Nearly five years ago, in a daring operation involving a daylight car chase and ambush through the streets of Delhi NCR Gurgaon area, Bhima Bawaria a notorious tiger poacher was arrested red handed with tiger skeleton, tiger skin, ivory and live turtles in his possession. This was a joint operation conducted by Wildlife SOS, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Haryana Forest Department.
Bhima Bawaria hails from Haryana and is a repeat offender who has been involved in organized wildlife crime for decades. He is responsible for killing over 30 tigers across India and was first convicted in a wildlife offence by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Chamoli in 2002. He is said to have a hand in the disappearance of tigers from Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan.
Several enforcement agencies including the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), CBI, WCCB have been on the lookout for this man for years. The anti-poaching and surveillance wing of Wildlife SOS too had been on his trail and kept him under constant surveillance for over 18 months to confirm his whereabouts, contacts and trade linkages.
Delhi and the NCR region is used as an intermediate trade route before the contraband leaves the country for international destinations like SE Asia and China where tiger body parts are used as ingredients in preparation of aphrodisiacs and traditional medicines. Bhima’s arrest also had the potential to reveal further critical links to his suppliers and locations where he and his close associates may have trapped and killed tigers in the past across India.
Bhima was on trial after his arrest in August 1, 2012 and in a landmark judgment issued by the Special Environment Court, Faridabad on 21st November 2017, he was finally convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment. The court has also imposed a fine of Rupees 10,000 under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Bhima’s conviction is also a deterrent to other wildlife criminals in the country.
He was previously arrested on several occasions in 2005, from Bijnore in Uttar Pradesh, in 2008 from Gurgaon, in 2014 from Pauri in Uttarakhand and in 2016 in Gurgaon. On each occasion he was arrested for possession of tiger meat, skin, wildlife contraband or jaw traps.
Kartick Satyanarayan, Wildlife SOS Co-founder expressed that this judgment sets a very good precedence for the future of tigers in India and it is a victory for wildlife conservation. Bhima is a dangerous criminal who has escaped from the hands of the law on several occasions in the past and it was the need of the hour to bring him to justice for his heinous crimes against India’s National animal – the Tiger!