Seized Bengal Monitors, soft corals trafficked to Mumbai from Gujarat: DRI probe | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Seized Bengal Monitors, soft corals trafficked to Mumbai from Gujarat: DRI probe

Apr 24, 2024 10:52 AM IST

The articles are protected under Schedule–I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, and were seized from a member of an inter-state wildlife trafficking syndicate

781 Bengal Monitor Lizard Hemipenes and 19.6 kg of soft corals that were seized on April 13 in Mumbai were allegedly brought from Gujarat for sale in Maharashtra, a probe by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI)’s Mumbai zonal unit revealed.

The DRI had detained a trafficker in Nashik who had arrived there with the stock of wildlife articles. (HT photo)
The DRI had detained a trafficker in Nashik who had arrived there with the stock of wildlife articles. (HT photo)

The articles are protected under Schedule–I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and were seized from a suspected member of an inter-state wildlife trafficking syndicate.

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The DRI had detained a trafficker at an interior, remote location of Nashik who had arrived there with the stock of wildlife articles to sell them on April 13. The DRI subsequently handed him over, along with the seized wildlife articles, to the Maharashtra State Forest officials for further action, according to provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, people aware of the details in the agency said.

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People familiar with the subsequent probe said that the trafficker allegedly disclosed during his questioning that he had sourced the consignment comprising the 781 Bengal Monitor Lizard Hemipenes and 19.6 kilograms of soft corals, seized by DRI on April 13, from his associates in Gujarat.

The probe by the forest department is currently focussing on netting the trafficker’s accomplices, including those responsible for organising the hunting down of the creatures in their habitats for further illegal trade, the above people said.

The probe will ascertain whether the creatures were all trapped and killed in Gujarat, or the syndicate had hoarded the wildlife articles there, after sourcing them from other regions, the people added.

The endangered Bengal Monitor Lizards are found in Gujarat, along with Maharashtra and Rajasthan. They survive on a range of prey including reptiles and worms and perform the role of scavengers in ecosystems, sources said. The reproductive organ of a male monitor lizard is suspected to be illegally traded as a lucky charm/aphrodisiac by traffickers, after extricating them out in a cruel manner, usually after killing the animals or even when they are alive leading to their demise, people aware of the details in the agency said.

Such a body part is similar in appearance to “Hatha Jodi”, the root of a plant with diverse traditional medicinal usage. The soft corals are used in cement industries and jewellery, the above people claimed.

According to people aware of the matter in DRI, the agency’s operation in Nashik had commenced upon the receipt of intelligence about a gang specialising in wildlife trafficking that was seeking prospective buyers for Bengal Monitor Lizard Hemipenes and soft corals.

The DRI team had laid a trap for the traffickers who were, however, being cautious and called the potential buyers, who were being closely monitored by the agency, to Nandgaon railway station in Nashik.

In June 2017, Madhya Pradesh’s Special Task Force recovered 68 pieces of such body parts of monitor lizards from a few poachers in Indore and Khargone.

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