Leopard, red panda skins seized from traffickers in north Bengal; three arrested
Preliminary investigations revealed that the trio used to work as link-men between wildlife offenders (hunters) and customers in Bhutan and China
One leopard skin and two red panda skins were seized from three wildlife traffickers at New Jalpaiguri in north Bengal on Tuesday afternoon, officials said.
The three accused are citizens of Nepal. They were arrested and will be produced in court on Wednesday.
The three were travelling on a motorcycle and the consignment was kept in two bags.
“Acting on a tip off, a motorcycle (with a Nepal number plate) was intercepted near the North Bengal University campus around 2:30pm on Tuesday. Even though the three initially managed to escape, they were intercepted a few kilometres away and arrested,” said the senior official.
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Preliminary investigations revealed that the trio used to work as link-men between wildlife offenders (hunters) and customers in Bhutan and China.
“After fixing a rate, the three used to deliver the animal parts and skins to their counterparts in Bhutan. The exchange usually used to take place at Phuntsholing in Bhutan. The consignment then used to move on,” said the official.
This time they had collected the skins from Mikwakhola in Nepal and come to India. They had even stored the items at a hideout in Panitanki in north Bengal after crossing the international border. They were supposed to cross over to Bhutan through Jaigaon to deliver the items.
“The wildlife wings of other security agencies have been alerted and the samples have been sent to the Zoological Survey of India for analysis,” said a senior official.
“This is the first red panda skin seized in recent times. All three are habitual offenders. They had entered India, with the skins, from Nepal and were going to Phuntsholing in Bhutan where the consignment was to be delivered for ₹30 lakh. It was supposed to go to China,” said a senior forest official.
The red panda is listed as endangered in the IUCN red list of threatened species and under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. This gives the animal the highest legal protection at par with other threatened species such as the tiger and lion. The leopard too is a Schedule I animal.