International golfer Jyoti Randhawa (full name Jyotinder Singh Randhawa) of India was arrested on 26 December 2018 on charges of poaching inside the globally famous Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (area 1,284.3 sq km or 495.9 sq mi)), a protected area in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. A telescope-mounted .22 rifle fitted with silencer, 80 cartridges, a range finder, carcass of a jungle fowl, hide of a sambar (Rusa unicolor), a large deer listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2008 and native to Indian subcontinent, southern China and Southeast Asia. Other wildlife articles were also recovered from his SUV with a registration number of Haryana (HR-26 DN-4299).
Randhawa was married to Bollywood actress Chitrangda Singh for 13 years before they divorced in 2014, ranked in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking several times between 2004 and 2009.
Another person arrested with Randhawa has been identified as Mahesh Virajdar, who served in Indian Navy as a captain and was also a member of the Navy’s high-profile skydiving team. In 2014, he was convicted by a Navy Court Martial for embezzlement of funds during the World Parachuting Championship in Paris in 2008. Offenders have been remanded to judicial custody of 14 days by the magistrate.
Dudhwa’s field director Ramesh Pandey told the press that the duo had killed a sambar in the Motipur range of Katarniaghat wildlife sanctuary that covers an area of 400.6 sq km in Terai belt of Dudhwa tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich district. Randhawa was staying at his father’s farm house in Nainiha village, 3 km from the spot where he was arrested. If convicted he can get jail terms of up to 7 years.
Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, situated on the Indo-Nepal border in the Upper Gangetic plains, was brought under the purview of the ‘Project Tiger’ in 1987. It provides strategic connectivity between tiger habitats of Dudhwa and Kishanpur in India and the Bardia National Park in Nepal and is home to wide range of endangered species, including the one-horned Indian Rhino, Gangetic dolphins, swamp deer, tiger, white-backed vultures, long-billed vultures, Hispid hare and Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), also known as fish-eating crocodile.