Four men have been arrested after one of the accused’s phones was discovered to contain a video of them gang-raping a Bengal monitor lizard at the Sahydari Tiger Reserve in Maharashthra, India. 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,” said the division forest officer Vishal Mali.
“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.” Vice Word News reports.
In addition to the video of the men sexually abusing the monitor lizard, officials also found photos of various animals such as porcupines and deer on the mens’ phones.
Forest guards initially only caught one of the accused, while the others fled. The remaining three were later found in Hativ village in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. Officials said the men came to Kolhapur’s Chandoli village from Konkan to hunt.
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.
What you need to know about India’s Bengal Monitor Lizard
India’s Bengal monitor lizards can grow up to five and a half feet long and weigh almost 16 pounds. They are currently categorized as reserve species under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
These specie of lizards are endangered, and are a protected species by law. Their population is steadily declining because of poaching. Eating monitor lizard meat is common across South Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia and Africa. Reports of the reptiles being hunted for their meat are common in India even though it’s illegal. In 2016, an Indian forest official was arrested after serving monitor lizard meat at a party. Monitor lizards are also hunted to make traditional medicine.
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.