NEW DELHI--A notorious poacher has kidnapped a botanist and two wildlife photographers and has sent a message to police authorities demanding amnesty for 2 decades of crime. The kidnapping took place on 9 October in southern India's Bandipur Tiger Reserve by Koose Muniswamy Veerappan, who allegedly has killed 140 people and more than 2000 elephants and looted the forests of some $30 million worth of sandalwood.
The botanist, Satyabrata Maiti of the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research in Bangalore, was visiting the park as a tourist when he was taken, says the Institute's director. A government spokesperson says that police are combing the forest to find the hostages and have set up roadblocks, but that negotiations for the hostages' release have not yet begun.
In the meantime, a field station in the same forests run by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, has suspended its annual study of forest dynamics, "because of the threat to the scientific staff," says Raman Sukumar, an ecologist who heads the field station. He says that Bandipur Tiger Reserve's game warden has also told the researchers not to enter the forests for at least another 2 weeks. If the impasse continues much longer, Sukumar says, data won't be comparable to past measurements and that could "seriously affect" research.