Thiruvananthapuram - The Forest Department on Friday arrested five persons in connection with the poaching of a wild elephant for its tusks in Shangili forest in Kollam district in May this year.

Forest Range Officer, Kulathupuzha, S.A. Jaleel, said the tusks weighing 15 kg were confiscated from the warehouse of an artefact dealer, William Siliva, at Muttathara in the city. William has been arrested. Jaleel said artisans working for William had converted one of the tusks into a Krishna idol and the other into a Krishna Leela carving.

On May 11, tribal people working for the Forest Department had discovered the carcass of a wild elephant deep inside Shangili. The post-mortem examination revealed that elephant had been shot dead on May 7 and its tusks removed. The animal had died from a single shot to its forehead, presumably fired from a locally made muzzle loading gun at a distance of less than 15 m.

Jaleel said local informants told wildlife authorities that some residents of Adiparambu, a tribal colony bordering Shangili forests, had contacts with seasoned poachers in Palode. Investigators found that one of the suspects, Rajendran, had recently purchased a mobile telephone and was flush with cash.

Jaleel said the arrest of Rajendran and subsequent questioning revealed the plot and also some of the main players in the city-centred illegal trade in ivory artefacts.

Investigators said that one Ponthan Vijayan, a resident of Palode and accused in several poaching cases, had contacted Rajendran for killing a wild elephant for its tusks in Shangili forests in April.