‘Poacher’ True Story & Real-life Malayattoor Poaching Case, Explained


Poacher, created by Emmy Award winner Richie Mehta, takes us back in time when one of the biggest poaching rackets was exposed, and it shocked the entire nation as, for the longest time, everybody believed that poaching had stopped in the state about a couple of decades back. From the early 1970s to the 1990s, countless elephants were killed by poachers, and the illegal ivory business boomed for those two decades. But then, all of a sudden, the poaching stopped, and the authorities believed that they were finally successful in their endeavors. But it was not so. Once again, after a gap of almost two decades, instances of poaching came to light. Around 18 elephants were killed during that time before the poachers were finally caught and put behind bars.

I believe that Poacher is going to bring about a change in perception in Indian society, where still a chunk of the population believes that it is no big deal if an animal is killed. There is a lot of hue and cry when a human being is murdered, and I believe that the series wants to make the point that a murder is a murder, even if it’s of an animal. In a teaser of the series, we saw Alia Bhatt investigating the crime scene, and she reiterated the fact that even if it’s the life of an animal, people should be held guilty, and nobody deserves to be subjected to such brutality. We suffer from the vice of speciesism, where we believe that apart from our lives, nothing else matters. But it is not so, and just because an animal cannot speak, we do not give that much importance to it. Had it not been happening on such a large scale, I believe that the authorities would not have done anything about it. So, let’s find out what the real-life events were that inspired the narrative of Poacher and what could be ascertained about the storyline by looking at the trailer.

What real-life events inspired Poacher?

The Amazon series Poacher is based on real-life events, though a few creative liberties have been taken by the makers, just to amp up the entertainment quotient and make the narrative even more interesting. It is based on the infamous Malayattoor poaching case, in which the authorities recovered approximately 416 kg of ivory. Countless elephants were killed during the span of two years, from 2013 to 2015. A man named Sudheesh Chandra Babu and his wife, Thankachi, who was the main accused in the case, were finally caught by the officials in 2018, and it was then that the authorities came to know how big the racket was and who all were involved in it. Thankachi was the one who had links to the mafia, and she made idols of ivory in various parts of Kerala and then smuggled them out of the state. 

The authorities came to know that poaching was not limited to the Malayatoor area only, as the criminals infiltrated the regions of Munnar and Vazhachal, too. It came out during the trial that certain big industrialists and influential people were also involved in the case. The illegal trade was not limited to the country, as ivory was supplied to the international markets as well. It was claimed that the Malayattoor racket was one of the biggest in the history of the ivory trade. Though poaching happened at a rampant pace in the late eighties, too, the current poaching racket functioned in a much more organized manner and the backing of a certain key player made sure that it all happened on a much wider scale. Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and the neighboring areas were plagued by poaching in the 80s and 90s, and after a lot of struggle, the authorities were able to put a halt to it. Poaching did happen after that, too, but it was never so organized, and the incidents were scarce. According to the reports, poaching disturbed the sex ratio in the elephants, and the concerned authorities had to really work hard to once again bring back the balance. Also, the authorities knew that if poaching was happening on such a large scale, then smuggling and illegal possession of arms would also be booming in the forest fringes. Apart from that, the black money was used to fund a lot of other illegal activities, like human and drug trafficking. 

What can we expect from the series? 

In the trailer of Poacher, we saw that Neel Banerjee, the field director, got a call from the forest minister, who told him to create a special task force to look into the matter of poaching. All of a sudden, the cases of elephants being killed came to light, and nobody knew that after two decades, the poachers had once again become so active. The problem this time was that everything was being done in a very organized manner, and Neel Banerjee knew that people higher up the food chain were involved in it. We saw that field director Neel gave a call to one of the best cops, Mala Jogi, and asked her to be a part of the team. Apart from Mala, the team also consisted of analysts like Alan Joseph, who examined the evidence  and helped the team ascertain patterns which led them to a breakthrough.

Another thing that Neel Banerjee said in the trailer was that the ivory was being smuggled to the Middle East and a lot of countries in Europe, too. It meant that international players were also involved in it, and it all couldn’t have happened unless and until the poachers working at the ground level didn’t have a political backup. Through the teaser, we got to know that, apart from poaching, the money made by the trade of ivory was being invested in other illegal trades, too. Arms were being smuggled, and drug trafficking had also increased in the area. The entire law and order was being affected, and that’s when Neel Banerjee and his team realized that they would have to stop it at all costs. More than anything, there were certain people who were involved in the investigation who cared for the wildlife, and they realized that these heartless poachers didn’t have any empathy for the poor creatures. Poacher will be released on February 23rd on Amazon Prime, and by the looks of it, it’s going to be a scintillating watch.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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