Lesser-known wild species like pangolins, monitor lizards, mongoose, porcupine, civet cat, spiny-tailed lizards, and mariner turtles are falling prey to poaching and quietly vanishing from the forests of Uttarakhand, wildlife experts said
The threat posed by illegal wildlife trade to tiger and Indian rhinoceros are well publicised, many of the state’s lesser known species are also rapidly vanishing because of poaching, yet their fate remains largely under the radar, they warned.
“The new trend in wildlife poaching has aimed lesser known wild species. King Cobra has a healthy population in Dehradun, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Rajaji National Park (RNP), Ramnagar and other forest divisions,” Dr Abhishek Kumar, head of EFFECT-- a not-for-profit organisation working for conservation of wildlife in the state-- told Hindustan Times.
“Majority (of) the poachers sell the species to snake charmers of UP (Uttar Pradesh) and Rajasthan. However, scientists are also working on the use of its venom in preparing drugs, especially painkillers.”
Late on Tuesday, forest officials had seized a king cobra from a man at the Asarodhi check-post in Dehradun forest division.
Similarly, porcupine, monitor lizard and civet cat were also seized in state in state for meat and medicinal value.
In September 2014, police and forest department officials had arrested three persons trying to smuggle 158 soft-shell turtles at Lalkuan near Haldwani in Nainital district.
According to wildlife expert that assisted the operation, the turtles were being smuggled for its meat and use in feng shui.
Delhi-based Wildlife Protection Society of India’s programme manager Tito Joseph said the focus has been on mega species while the lesser-known animals valued in illegal wildlife trade are being quietly and systematically wiped out.
“Lesser known species of wild are equally important like big wild animals-tiger, leopards, elephants, cheetah, lion and others. If the new trend has targeted these species, then the forest department should take necessary steps to conserve it,” he warned.
The state forest department, which is more focused on conservation of larger animals, admits that the poachers have shifted their focus to lesser-known species. “The department is working day and night for conservation of bigger wild animals,” said SS Sharma, state principal chief conservator of forests. “We do not have a concrete plan to conserve small wild animals. But, I will direct officers to prepare a comprehensive plan in this regard.”