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Forest officers seize AK-47 from poachers in North Bengal

Four poachers were arrested by police.

kolkata Updated: Oct 20, 2016 09:59 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times
West Bengal,poachers,forest guards
This is the first time such a sophisticated weapon was seized from alleged wildlife poachers and smugglers from North Bengal, where poaching of wildlife and smuggling of animal parts are rampant.(HT Photo)

Foresters on Tuesday night seized one AK-47 rifle along with 46 live cartridges and one rhino horn from North Mendabari area of Jaldapara National Park in Alipurduar district and arrested four persons.

Acting on a tip off that some wildlife articles were kept in the house of one Sanjay Rava, forest officials led by Bimal Debnath, assistant wildlife warden of Jaldapara National Park (JNP), conducted raid at Bimal’s house.

They seized one rhino horn weighing 340 gms.

“After his interrogation, we recovered one AK-47 rifle from another house along with 46 live cartridges,” said Debnath. Twenty-six of the cartridges were loaded in the magazine, Debnath told HT.

This is the first time such a sophisticated weapon was seized from alleged wildlife poachers and smugglers from North Bengal where poaching of wildlife and smuggling of articles are rampant.

Among those arrested are Sanjay, Laichu Rava, Subal Rava and Arjun Rava, all residents of North Mendabari and Bong Busty beside JNP under Kalchini police station. One person managed to flee.

Read: Ivory worth Rs 8 lakh seized in Jalpaiguri

Debnath said the rhino horn and AK-47 rifle could be seized because of improved relation of the forest department with the local people. It was the local people who helped the forest department in its fight against the wildlife poaching and smuggling, said Debnath.

Officials who were involved in last night’s operation said it was beyond their imagination that the smugglers would be using AK-47 rifles. “It was only after the recovery of the rifle, we realised that the operation could have turned fatal for the foresters,” said another officer involved in the operation.

Read:Hunters become the hunted: Elephant poachers fall prey to their phone calls

Sources said those arrested last night were trackers of rhinos’ movement while the shooters were supposed to come again during Kali puja from Assam. The shooters from Assam were on shooting spree of rhinos and they had a plan to shoot at least four rhinos during festive season, said forest sources.

A forest official told HT, “As we had reliable sources, the seizures were done last night.” The AK-47 rifle, wrapped in a cloth and plastic, was hidden under the mud. It was left behind by the shooters from Assam and the same weapon was supposed to be used during the rhino killing spree during Diwali time, said the forest official.

Among the arrested, Sanjay was the recruiter for rhino poaching, officials said.

First Published: Oct 20, 2016 09:59 IST