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Pangolin, tiger, leopard and rhino were most poached animals in India in 2017: Survey

WPSI members said seizures and poaching cases only reveal a fraction of the demand and supply

mumbai Updated: Dec 24, 2017 17:30 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
55 leopards were poached in 2017.

Pangolin scales , skins and bones of tiger and leopard, and rhino horns were the most traded illicit wildlife products in India in 2017, found a year-long analysis by New Delhi-based non-profit Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). These four protected species were most poached.

While the number of seizures of leopard skin and bone was 101 this year with 55 poaching cases, 16 seizures of tiger skins, bones and claws (19 poached) were reported from various parts of the country. Similarly, 11 cases related to smuggling of pangolin and its scales were reported from six states (see box), and 13 cases of rhino poaching from Assam and West Bengal.

WPSI members said seizures and poaching cases only reveal a fraction of the demand and supply, both in the national and international markets. “Our sources have been repeatedly informing us about organised groups or a network that thrives on this trade by sending pangolin scales, rhino horns, and tiger and leopard skins to China and southeast Asian countries,” said Tito Joseph, programme coordinator, WPSI. “It is almost similar to narcotics cartels. With high demand coming from all over the world, this clandestine trade is now at the level of any multi-national company.”

The report adds that pangolins have become the most threatened species in the world owing to this trade, and all eight species of the animal have now been identified under appendix-1 of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), making the species banned worldwide for any trade. According to WPSI, between 2009 and 2016, more than 6,000 pangolins have been hunted in India.

Biswajit Mohanty, secretary, Wildlife Society of Orissa, said pangolin scales are in high demand especially in China, with price of one scale varying from $500 to $1,000.

Members of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) said the black market globally generates $50 billion to $150 billion annually.

A senior official from the ministry of environment told HT that the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) was setup in India to control this trade. “We have directed every regional WCCB office to tie up with various state departments to identify all possible routes for this trade, and develop real-time satellite maps,” he said.

WCCB officials confirmed that the report was authentic and these were the four main species involved in illicit trade, along with reports of freshwater turtle and star tortoise trade.

First Published: Dec 24, 2017 00:58 IST