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The commotion unnerved Ranthambhore officials, and they agreed to work with Khandal to stop the poachers. Khandal rounded up a motley group of volunteers—one drank too much, another had done jail time for stabbing someone—none of whom knew anything about intelligence gathering. But they had boundless enthusiasm. When one notorious tiger killer named Rajmal Moghiya refused to talk, they beat him severely. They also discovered 65 pounds of fresh sambar meat that he had poached from the park, and his subsequent arrest received splashy local media coverage. Soon thereafter, poaching began to decline in Ranthambhore. Unfortunately, Khandal’s success ultimately produced grumbling among park staff. “An outsider was working with the government for the first time, and it was so effective,” says a forest service officer. “My colleagues didn’t like it. They wondered if it was being done to defame the department.” So after just five raids, the forest service shut down Khandal’s operation.

Left on his own, Khandal went underground. He knew he had to penetrate the murky world of the Moghiyas. But how? He needed money. And time. Moghiyas aren’t exactly a welcoming bunch. Ever since their warrior ancestors were routed and chased into the forest by Akbar the Great in the 16th century, Moghiyas have lived outside mainstream Indian society, perfecting their hunting skills and often resorting to banditry. Today most live a marginal existence along the edges of forests, where they’re lucky to get work guarding the crops of nearby villages against wild animals. Ultimately, poaching remains their best chance for survival.

By the spring, however, Khandal had scrounged up funds from two unlikely sources. A local health and rural development NGO gave him some money and a jeep. He also received funding from a Delhi schoolteacher who was so outraged by India’s tiger crisis that her class raised several hundred dollars selling crafts and cookies.

Armed, then, with little more than middle school bake sale money, Khandal dressed himself in full camo, stuck a fake pistol in his pants, and went looking for the only Moghiya he knew, Rajmal. The infamous poacher was now in jail not only for sambar poaching but also for an unrelated murder. Khandal swaggered into the jailhouse posing not as who he was—a woefully underpaid scientist—but as “a big man from Delhi,” a man serious about throttling poachers. He got in Rajmal’s face. “When you get out of jail we will follow you,” Khandal said. “We will kill you. We’re not playing.” Khandal needed an inside source, and he demanded that Rajmal hand over his son Ram Singh, who was also an active poacher. Terrified, Rajmal relented. Khandal hauled the young poacher home, and for two months he peppered him with questions. Ram Singh explained everything he knew about the Moghiya community. Everything but poaching. Finally, Khandal decided to throw Ram Singh a little party.

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  • Life of this man is really worth meaning
  • This is a great article. I have heard a lot about Dharmendra Khandal and his efforts to save tigers …
  • every park in this country should have an independent team working on the lines of Dharm but this is…
  • Being a huge wildlife the Jungle calls me every few months . I have seen tigers in Sariska ,Ranthamb…
  • Being a huge wildlife the Jungle calls me every few months . I have seen tigers in Sariska ,Ranthamb…
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