Forest officials in India are investigating four men who gang-raped, killed, cooked and ate a monitor lizard in one of India’s most protected forest reserves. It was the only monitor lizard in the park.
The incident took place on March 29 at the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. The forest’s camera traps, meant for tracking tigers, caught the accused men trespassing the reserve’s Chandoli National Park. Forest officials arrested the men between April 1 and 5, and found photos and videos on their phones of them gang-raping a monitor lizard, and then killing and eating it.
“I have never seen a crime like this before,” division forest officer Vishal Mali told VICE World News. “The men are in their 20s and 30s, and they appear to have done it for fun. There was no religious or black magic agenda.”
The men were identified as Sandeep Pawar, Mangesh Kamtekar, Akshay Kamtekar and Ramesh Ghag, all locals. They are charged under India’s Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. A local court granted them bail last week.
Forest officials in Maharastra's Sahyadri Tiger Reserve stand with the accused (in yellow, red, blue and extreme right) who were found to have had intercourse with an Indian monitor lizard.
India’s monitor lizards are endangered, and are a protected species by law. Violators may be punished with a seven-year jail term. A report by wildlife advocacy groups recorded 82 cases of sexual abuse against animals in India between 2010 and 2020. This was out of a total of 500,000 cases of animal-related crimes that include torture and killings.
Most recent cases of sexual abuse against animals include a man raping and killing a pregnant goat in southern India, and a 60-year-old man raping a female stray dog last year.
While the suspects are out on bail, Mali said the photos and videos of the incident have been sent to a forensic lab to build evidence for the case. Forest officials are also seeking legal advice on charging the accused under a law that criminalises unnatural sex between humans and animals. “Not only is this cruel, but there is a risk of zoonotic diseases from this kind of case. There are concerns of men carrying STDs and other infections from their act,” Mali said.
The Sahyadri Tiger Reserve, which is spread across over 1,166 square kilometres (116,600 hectares), is governed by the Indian government, and encompasses three national parks. The Chandoli National Park is spread across over 300 square kilometres (30,000 hectares) and has wildlife ranging from tigers and panthers, to reptiles such as monitor lizards and geckos. There is no official census of animals in the park, but Mali said it has 30 animals per square feet.