Poacher Veerappan killed in India

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2004:

CHENNAI–Koose Munisamy Veerappan, 52, the most wanted
poacher and wildlife trafficker in the world after sometime elephant
ivory and rhino horn trafficker Osama bin Laden, was killed on
October 18 in an hour-long shootout with members of the Tamil Nadu
Special Task Force. Killed with Veerappan were his close associates
Sethukuzhi Govindan and Madegowda, and Tamil separatist guerilla
Sethumani, also known as Sethumalai.
The STF unit caught Veerappan in an ambush at about 11 p.m.
on the road between the towns of Padi and Papparapatti in the jungle
of Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu, near the Karnataka border.
Introduced to elephant poaching at age 10 by another poacher
of note, Selvan Gounder, Veerappan killed his first human at age
17, took over the gang at age 18, was briefly jailed for murder at
age 20, but was bailed out by a Tamil separatist politician, and
went on to kill as many as 2,000 elephants, along with uncounted
thousands of blackbuck, monitor lizards, languors, and tens of
thousands of fish. His favorite fishing method was reputedly
dynamiting ponds.

Cornered in the Mavukal forest on August 27, 1983,
Veerappan shot forest guard K.M. Prithvi, 25, his first known law
enforcement victim, to effect his escape.
The Veerappan gang went on to kill at least 36 police
officers and forest guards, wounding 47. Among the dead were a
Tamil Nadu forest officer who was ax-murdered in 1987, three Tamil
Nadu forest guards who were kidnapped, killed, and mutilated in
1989, four Karnataka police killed in an April 1990 ambush, a
Karnataka deputy conservator beheaded in November 1990 for allegedly
causing the suicide of Veerappan’s sister Mari, five police who were
shot in a 1992 raid on the Ramapura police station, and 22 police
who were killed in 1993 when Veerappan dynamited a bus.
The Special Task Force formed to capture Veerappan,
eventually including as many as 1,500 men, itself came under
investigation for alleged retaliatory use of beatings, rapes, and
torture against tribal people they believed were withholding
information.
Fifty-six gang members were killed in shootouts with the STF
and local police. At least 20 gang members were arrested. Three,
including Veerappan’s brother Arjunan, took cyanide in 1996 to avoid
capture. Veerappan killed a police constable in a revenge attack.
Altogether, Veerappan was responsible for between 120 and
130 murders, about 80 of them to silence potential witnesses. In
August 1985 Veerappan shot five villagers on each of two consecutive
days to avenge his wife’s arrest. In one 1986 incident he reportedly
“butchered 10 tribals” to reinforce his reputation, including seven
members of one family, and in August 1995 he reprised the killings
by murdering four more.
Veerappan also liquidated at least one rival poaching gang.
His best-known crime was kidnapping soap opera star Rajkumar,
71, in July 2000. Rajkumar was eventually ransomed, but former
Karnataka chief minister H. Nagappa was killed after Veerappan
kidnapped him in August 2002.
Between the presence of the Veerappan gang and the STF, “No
other poacher of elephants and other wildlife dared enter the
forests” of Dharmapurim, Salem, and Erode in the Western Ghats,
The Times of India reported, adding that a wave of poaching followed
confirmation of Veerappan’s death.
But even before Veerappan was gunned down, several of the
other most notorious poachers in India were moving into the region,
anticipating his demise.
The Deccan Herald reported on October 15 that, “A gang from
North India headed by the wildlife trader Sansar Chand is now
actively carrying out poaching in the south. The Katni gang from
Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh struck for the third time at the Bandipur
Tiger Reserve on October 2, according to the Wildlife Club.”
The Katni gang specializes in killing tigers and leopards,
to sell their remains to China.
“The bones and teeth of these poached animals are sold at a
high price to markets in China through Sansar Chand, who has
extensive links not only with international wildlife product
companies but also with other key persons who save his skin every
time he is caught,” Wilderness Club honorary secretary J. Manjunath
said.

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