Bengaluru: The forest officials on Saturday arrested two shepherds for setting the Bandipur tiger reserve on fire. The accused are identified as Gopalaiah (60) and Hanumanthaiah (70).

According to reports, the villagers from the range feared tigers’ attack on the cattle, and they decided to light the grass patch in the village surrounding, which led to the massive destruction, burning down acres of this forest area.

The forest officials on Saturday presented the duo before the civil court in Gundlupet and were booked under IPC sections 27, 29, 30, 31, 50 and 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.

However, to avoid further such events, the officials have deployed additional officers with walkie-talkies in the area to report the incidents immediately.

Thousands of acres of land in the Bandipur tiger reserve on February 22 were gutted in the fire, triggering fear regarding the safety of wild animals. The forest officials, along with hundreds of volunteers, made a vain bid to douse the fire that had spread to dangerous proportions.

A stretch of eight kilometres of the forest, from Varekatte to Gopalaswamy Hill, had been burned to ashes while reports said that the fire had spread to Chartalakore Hill, Dummana Hill and Gouri Kallu Hill.