Gaboon vipers, giant scorpions: Assam police arrest 1 for illegal trade of exotic animals
The Assam Police and forest officials have seized Gaboon vipers, marmosets, giant scorpions, even a meerkat and several other exotic animals from an alleged wildlife trafficker in Jorabat, in one of the biggest such hauls in the state.
Investigators suspect that the animals — native to Africa, South America and Thailand — were smuggled from Thailand through Myanmar, which has emerged as a popular transit hub for illegal trade in wildlife.
Pradip Singh, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, was arrested after forest officials found the animals in a Tata Sumo during a routine check, Jorabat police station in-charge Partha Pratim Gogoi said.
Four Gaboon vipers, a meerkat, three marmosets, two African spurred tortoises, two albino reticulated pythons, 13 corn snakes, 10 giant scorpions (two of them dead), a sugar glider, and a dead central bearded dragon were found in the vehicle, divisional forest officer Pradipta Barua said.
The animals were handed over to the Assam state zoo, Barua said, adding they couldn’t be released in the wild as they were foreign species.
The haul is said to be worth crores in international market, with exotic animals emerging as another symbol of wealth, said a forest official. Singh told investigators he was bringing the animals from Aizawl and was to take them to Delhi from Guwahati, added the official, who did not want to be named.
Jose Louies, who leads the wildlife trade control and litigation division at Wildlife Trust of India, said traffickers were using gaps in Indian law to their advantage. The wildlife act is silent on non-native species even if the animals are on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species list, according to Louies. “At best you can just confiscate the animals and book the person under customs act,” he said.
Singh was booked under section 55 of the Wildlife Protection Act. “There is a reticulated python which is a schedule 1 species under the act,” Baruah said.
The schedule 1 lists animals and birds that are endangered and provides them protection by listing stiff penalties for any harm coming to them.