Poacher: Are SHO Dina and DHO Adil Sheikh Based on Actual Forest Officers?

Prime Video’s ‘Poacher’ weaves a narrative inspired by the investigation of the 2015 ivory trade case in Kerala. The investigation exposed a vast and illegal network reaching beyond local poachers and dealers, entangling the threads of its nexus throughout the nation. The characters in the TV series are based on key players in the actual case, with a touch of fiction to seamlessly integrate them into the storyline. The roles of SHO Dina and DHO Adil Sheikh further pique curiosity, leaving viewers to question whether these characters are real!

SHO Dina is Based on T. Uma

In the series, SHO Dina is introduced as the forest officer responsible for interrogating Morris Finn, the local ivory dealer linked to the supply network that extends to buyers in Delhi. Despite Finn’s attempts to leverage his connections, Dina remains steadfast, keeping him in custody. She emerges as an upright officer, uncovering Finn’s workshop and realizing the extent of ivory transportation, both nationally and internationally. However, Dina faces suspension when Finn accuses her and her husband of torture during his custody.

Dina in the series is inspired by former District Forest Officer (DFO) T. Uma, who played a key role in the actual case. Following the arrest of local dealer Aji Bright, who was released on bail after three weeks, he accused Uma and her husband R. Kamalahar, an Indian Forest Service officer, of subjecting him to custodial torture. Bright filed a formal complaint against them, claiming he endured 18 hours of torture and even the doctor who examined him did not report his injuries to the magistrate.

Bright claimed that he refrained from revealing the torture due to the presence of a close friend in custody. Subsequently, the Crime Branch initiated a case against Uma, her husband, and another officer identified by the local poacher. The charges included inflicting grievous harm under sections 323, 324, and 326 of the Indian Penal Code. When an identification parade was organized by the ED in 2020 for Aji, Uma and her husband did not participate, citing health reasons.

Image Credit: Footwear Design & Development Institute

In 2013, Uma achieved the historic milestone of becoming the first woman to hold the position of Divisional Forest Officer in Thiruvananthapuram. She expressed immense joy in serving nature, a duty she likened to serving God. Having joined the services in 2009, Uma is also a mother to a son named Prathyush. As of 2023, she holds the role of Deputy Secretary to India’s Ministry of External Affairs and has been stationed in New Delhi since 2020. In 2022, she joined the Footwear Design & Development Institute (FDDI), Chennai, located in Tamil Nadu, India, as the executive director.

Adil Sheikh is Inspired by K. Vijayanand

In the series, Adil Sheikh is one of the first Kerala Forest officers introduced to the viewers. A forest watcher named Aruku confesses about the poaching to Sheikh. He takes Aruku’s statement and even sends a team to track one of the poachers but it turns out to be a botched investigation. However, it is only when the information is leaked that senior officers take notice of the statement and initiate a more organized investigation. Sheikh orders the suspension of some deputy range officers after it is alleged that they haven’t taken the operation seriously.

The character of Adil Sheikh appears to draw inspiration from K. Vijayanand, who served as the Divisional Forest Officer in the Malayatoor division in the Ernakulam district during the investigation of the case. In a 2016 interview, Vijayanand provided insights into the functioning of the ivory network, detailing the connections between low-level poachers and dealers. He explained the methods employed by these poachers and delved into the mindset that drove their operations. Vijayanand also mentioned some of the key culprits, including Aji and Aykkaramattom Vasu (the inspiration behind Raaz) involved in the crimes during the interview.

Vijayanand remained dedicated to serving the Kerala Forest Department, showcasing commendable leadership throughout the years. In 2020, he earned the position of Chief Conservator of Forests in the Southern Circle, Kollam. His team’s efforts were particularly praised for their invaluable work in the forests during the challenging period of the COVID-19 pandemic. They played a crucial role in preventing the spread of the virus among wildlife and the period highlighted Vijayanand’s commitment to conservation and protection of nature. His continued service reflects his passion for preserving the rich biodiversity of Kerala’s forests.

Read More: Poacher: Is Mala Jogi Inspired by a Real Forest Officer? Where is She Now?