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Special team to be sent to Bengal to probe scorpion smuggling from Ajmer

Around 10,000 dead scorpions were recovered in a raid at a shop in Ajmer’s Dargah area last week

jaipur Updated: Aug 13, 2019 09:45 IST
Jaykishan Sharma
Jaykishan Sharma
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Black scorpions found at the shop in Ajmer last Thursday.
Black scorpions found at the shop in Ajmer last Thursday.(HT photo)
         

The forest department will send a special team to West Bengal on Tuesday in search of the quack from whose shop around 10,000 dead black scorpions and 60-litre liquid, suspected to be the scorpion’s venom, was recovered in a raid in Ajmer last Thursday, said a senior official of the department on Monday.

A team of the district forest officials and police had raided the shop of Anwar Shaikh alias ‘Bicchu Baba’ in Dargah area of Ajmer on August 8. Shaikh, native of a village near Kolkata, was not present at the shop. The team arrested Shaikh’s caretaker, Saleem alias Aslam Khan (47), from the shop under relevant sections of the Wildlife Act 1972.

During interrogation, Saleem told the officials that the shop was owned by Shaikh. He said that Shaikh used to buy black scorpion from various regions of West Bengal and bring them to Ajmer by train. “In investigation conducted so far, we have come to know that the main accused (Shaikh) was running this shop in the Dargah area for last nine to ten years. He used to extract the oil (venom) by boiling the scorpions in a closed vessel and sell them to people suffering from various kinds of diseases,” said Sudeep Kaur, deputy conservator of forest (DCF) in Ajmer.

Scorpion venom is known for its medical value and contains proteins known to treat various ailments such as cancer and pain in joints. “The venom of the black scorpion is very costly, as it has multiple uses. In grey market, the venom of black scorpion costs around Rs 68 crore per litre in Indian currency,” said Kaur.

Forest department officials suspect it to be a bag racket operating in India and other South Asian countries. The department, with the help of local and West Bengal police, is trying to reach the source from where the black scorpions are being smuggled.

“(Recovery of) 10,000 dead scorpions from one shop is a matter of serious concern. On Tuesday, we will form a team which will go to various regions of Bengal to unearth the racket. If we succeed, possibly we will be able to expose the biggest nexus of scorpion smuggling in the country,” the DCF said.

Ajmer superintendent of police (SP) Kunwar Rashtradeep said, “We will help the forest department in every possible manner.”

Talking about the August 8 raid, Kaur said that the forest department had received a tipoff that a quack in the Dargah area was selling oil extracted from black scorpions to people suffering from various kinds of pains and other diseases.

“After verifying the tip, Ajmer police was also roped in and a joint raid was conducted at the shop from where approximately 10,000 dead black scorpions stuffed in white transparent boxes, steel vessels and 60-litre oil was recovered,’ said Kaur. Caretaker of the Shaikh’s shop was arrested, he added.

Another senior police official of the forest department, who didn’t want to be named, said that catching scorpion is not an easy task. “Scorpions are nocturnal. To capture them, one has to search for the black sand and wait till sunset. Searching and catching a single scorpion takes about six to eight hours,” he said. “Smuggling scorpions is easy, as they can last in a hot and humid climate. They can survive in covered boxes without food for several weeks,” he added.

According to the official, the demand for scorpions that weigh more than 30 gm is “extremely high” in Asian countries, especially Sindh region. Trade of black scorpions is legal in some part of Pakistan as the venom is used to develop compounds for anti-cancer medicines. It is also a popular street-food snack in many countries, including China.

First Published: Aug 13, 2019 09:45 IST

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