94 animals, birds rescued during a raid in Mumbai
The Thane wing of the Maharashtra forest department carried out a raid based on a tip-off that led to the interception of a truck carrying 94 caged animals and birds, which were rescued and the truck driver was arrested on early Wednesday morning.
The forest department said they were assisted by animal welfare group Wildlife Welfare Association (WWA) during the raid.
According to forest officials, 62 Indian rose-ringed parakeets, 12 plum headed parakeets, seven Indian palm squirrels, and 13 albino rabbits, were being delivered to south Mumbai as the truck was on route to Crawford Market. The truck was intercepted for inspection at Anand Nagar toll naka, Thane along the Eastern Express Highway. Some of the animals are protected under various Schedules of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
“We had received a tip-off about this truck on Tuesday itself, and from 4.30 am onwards our team of forest officers and WWA were at a Dhaba keeping an eye on the truck. We spotted the vehicle around 6am. On further inquiry we found the animals and birds kept hidden at the back of the truck and arrested the driver,” said Narendra Muthe, range forest officer (Thane).
The accused was identified as Shakil Ahmed Ansari, who was taken into forest custody. “A case was filed against Ansari. He was produced before a local district court but was granted bail later on Wednesday. However, further investigations into the source of these animals and birds is underway,” said Muthe.
The animals and birds are in the custody of the department and their health is being monitored. They would be soon released based on the court’s order, added Muthe.
This is the second instance of such a large raid this year after 88 wild animals rescued on October 30 with two persons arrested from a go-down cum apartment in Lalbaug by the same investigation teams.
The Bombay high court in June 2017 had directed the Maharashtra government to shut down all illegal pet shops at Crawford market terming it a “black market” for wildlife trade but according to forest officials and wildlife activists, traders were quiet for a few years but a spike in trade was observed in 2020.
WWA said the idea was to break the chain of supply of this illegal wildlife trade. “We are trying to intercept the origin of this trade. Crawford and Kurla markets continue to operate in full swing despite repeated raids this year across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region,” said Aditya Patil, president, WWA.