An Assam Rifles jawan, who took 15-days leave from duty, was among a gang of four poachers nabbed in Jalpaiguri by the forest department on Saturday.
Bayona Ubin, 38, a resident of Arunachal Pradesh, was heading for Jaldapara forest when he was caught with three other accomplices at Birpara about 55 km away from their destination.
“Four have been arrested by our people. One of the gang members is a serving personnel of Assam Rifles,” forest minister Binay Krishna Barman told HT.
The other members of the gang were Naba Thamang, 32, resident of Dimapur, Dumai Singh, 37, resident of Arunachal Pradesh and Bishnu Chhetri, 50, resident of Assam.
The gang was allegedly involved in several cases of poaching, claimed forest officers. Their last victim was a rhino about eight months ago in Gorumara. The officers claimed the group is suspected to have killed big animals in Assam too.
“The kingpin of the gang is based in Assam. This gang sold rhino horn at Rs 3 lakh per kilo. However, when it reaches international market, the price may even touch Rs 1 crore per kilo,” said an officer.
According to the forest officers, Ubin was the key man of the group. He is also the main shooter. The team of four was heading for Jaldapara, which is famous for rhinoceros. Acting on a tip off, the forest officials headed by Dutta, intercepted their vehicle at Birpara.
An automatic rifle (carrying the inscription GRC-II, 1980 SHTLE-III) with seven rounds of ammunition was seized from the gang. A piece of ivory weighing two kilos was also seized from them.
An axe designed to remove horns from rhinos was also found on them. The gang was also carrying a tent for their hunting expedition in the forest.
“Ubin admitted killing animals in the area earlier. We came to know about Ubin after grilling a poacher who had killed a rhino in Gorumara forest about eight months ago,” Dutta told HT.
Over the past few months there has been a sudden spurt in poaching incidents and illegal wildlife trade in north Bengal.