More than 20 suspects were arrested by the wildlife department officers for illegally entering wildlife sanctuaries during the COVID travel restrictions, Wildlife Department said.
They said the suspects were apprehended in the Maduru Oya and Wilpattu National Parks while engaging in illegal activities that were harmful to the forest environment.
Accordingly, 14 suspects were arrested with seven bullock carts after entering the Maduru Oya National Park, the department said.
These suspects were captured on June 1 night after officers from the reserve's 'Beettu office' raided the 'Gembagala' area in the Maduru Oya forest reserve.
Forest officers took them under their custody with seven bullock carts, 14 oxen, two hand saws, an axe, torches and a mobile phone.
It is suspected that these suspects had come to transport timber from the park. The men and the case productions are to be produced before the Dehiattakandiya Magistrate.
Meanwhile, on the occasion of 'World Environment Day,' two hunters from the Maduru Oya National Park forest reserve were arrested during a flash raid on June 5. A three wheeler used to transport venison, a locally made weapon, a torch, some explosives including ammunition, pieces of lead, a knife used to cut meat, a hunted down dotted deer and 35 kg of meat which was packed to be sold were seized by the wildlife officers.
Wildlife officials were on a surveillance mission upon a tip off about these men who had been hunting wild animals for a long period of time to supply the venison to various hotels and restaurants in the Dehiattakandiya area.
Another five hunters were also caught in the Wilpattu National Park with suspected Bengal monitor - iguana - (Thalagoya) meat. (Chaturanga Samarawickrama)