A Darjeeling court on Monday convicted two reputed Czech entomologists, Petr Svacha and Emil Kucera, on the charge of unauthorised collection of 200 rare bettles, butterflies and other insects from Singalia National Park in June this year.
The two were held guilty under various sections of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, in a trial which lasted about 15 days believed to be fastest in the Indian wildlife crime history. The quantum of judgement will be announced on Wednesday, district forest officials said. The Act provides for punishment between three and seven years.
Their arrest from a hotel in Darjeeling by West Bengal Police on June 25 had created an international storm with scientists from Czech Repulic, America and India asking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to release them.
The West Bengal government, however, said the two were collecting the rare insects without proper authorisation. The law says that endangered species cannot be collected from Indian forests without proper permission from the state’s Chief Conservator of Forest.
Sale of rare insects is said to be an international business worth $20 million and Indian forests are believed to be hot spots for trapping them. Since 1995, 24 cases of insect poaching have been reported from India, of which 12 were from West Bengal, a Wildlife Protection Society of India website said.