The vessel has reportedly faced engine failure and was stranded off Mentawai Islands.Some reports said that a few onboard the vessel had died of poor health. It was not known if the vessel was an asylum boat heading to Australia. A vessel with some 40 Sri Lankans onboard is believed to have been stranded off Indonesia, the Indonesian media reported today.According to one report a rescue team has been sent to the vessel from Padang.
But Richard Eales, one of the national park’s rangers who sits on a new Exmoor Rural Crime Initiative board, vowed the authorities would not surrender in the face of the poachers’ increasingly violent tactics.”As the criminals get more organised, so are we. We will eventually crack poaching,” he said. “Killing deer is not a victimless crime, there are firearms offences, threats to landowners and farmers, trespass, and illegal and possibly unsafe meat.” Credit:ALAMY Last week early morning dog walkers were confronted with the remains of a butchered deer in the town’s Beacon Road, a residential street close to St Michael’s Church.Jane Bates, a Minehead resident, posted a message on social media to warn others. “This is awful and I don’t feel safe walking there any more if there are people walking around with guns,” she said. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Police have launched a dedicated text number for tip-offs about suspicious sightings, a new mobile phone app called Project Poacher and put up posters.Sgt Andy Whysall, of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, said: “This is now organised crime and it will be met with a higher degree of organisation and cross border initiatives from us. We will wipe this poaching out.”A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset Constabulary added: “In those cases where police are acting on intelligence they will have armed back-up.” The meat from one carcass is worth around £200 and a large set of antlers alone can fetch £500, fuelling the trade in poached venison.And while red deer are hunted legally on Exmoor to control numbers, the Devon and Somerset Staghounds only kill about 250 a year.While it is illegal to shoot deer at night, prosecutions for poaching are rare. Within the national park’s 267 square miles there are vast deep valleys, dense forests, the highest sea cliffs in mainland Britain, and wide desolate moors – where criminals are almost impossible to find in the pitch dark. Not since the court of Henry VIII perhaps, has its rich, gamey flesh been as popular with diners as it is now – for both its taste and its healthy properties.But such is the fashion for venison that the very existence of England’s largest population of red deer is under threat from gangs of armed poachers determined to cash in on rising demand.Poachers are travelling to Exmoor National Park in increasing numbers, armed with rifles and powerful lamps to stun the animals in the darkness.Police in the West Country have armed officers on standby in order to provide backup for patrols attempting to stop what they describe as “organised slaughter” by criminals.There are even reports of the deer being chased off the moors at night and butchered in the streets of the nearby Somerset town of Minehead by the poachers. A poster warning against the poaching of red deer and other wildlifeCredit:Crimestoppers An estimated 2,500 deer are thought to live on the moor, down from around 3,700 five years ago. But there is no official record of the population.Local farmers and wildlife experts now fear the red deer, the largest wild animals in the UK, could be wiped out.Johnny Kingdom, a wildlife TV documentary maker who has studied the deer for years said: “There are certain parts of the moor where I know I could once find 100 deer together, today it’s maybe 50. They are going, they are disappearing.”If the police are armed, it might help deter these poachers. What is Exmoor without its wild deer?”But Exmoor veterinary surgeon Peter Green says consumers should also start to take responsibility for the venison they eat.“Every diner eating a venison meal should ask the pub landlord or restaurant owner where the meat has come from,” he said. “The meat could be infected, and there are twits out there driven by the ridiculous notion they can prove their prowess by killing something that has got antlers. Yet at night, shooting stags is as easy as shooting cattle in a field.” Credit:ALAMY Part of a deer carcass discarded by poachers on the streets of Minehead, SomersetCredit:The Telegraph A spokesman for the National Wildlife Crime Unit said the influx of organised gangs is transforming poaching from a cottage criminal activity into an industrial scale operation.With sales of venison up by more than 400 per cent in 2016 from the previous year, the lone poacher has been pushed aside by criminal gangs. A red deer stag on a fern and bracken covered hillside in North Devon, likely to have wandered from the Exmoor areaCredit:ALAMY