KOLKATA: A person was arrested from his Salt Lake residence on Monday morning for allegedly possessing elephant tusks and objects made of ivories. Sources revealed that the items are worth Rs 50 lakh.
The accused has been identified as Tapan Chakrabarty (65). Though there are unconfirmed reports that he used to be a police officer, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) officials, who have conducted the raid, said that they are verifying the same. They said that one of his associates, Proshun Banerjee (32), too has been arrested. Banerjee is a resident of Howrah's Liluah.
One tusk, 9 statuettes and other objects made of ivories were seized from Chakrabarty's Salt Lake residence. "The seized items are worth Rs 50 lakh," revealed an officer of WCCB.
Sources revealed that the duo had plans to sell the items. "We posed as buyers and raided Chakrabarty's residence at FC19 Block in Salt Lake. When the duo started showing us the products, we caught them raid handed. While raiding the house, we also got hold of an elephant tusk," said a WCCB official.
Sources said the accused had put up an advertisement on an online shopping portal to sell the items. Tracking that advertisement, the WCCB officials traced the accused. Sources said that a kg of tusk is sold in black market for anything between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000. The tusk of a full-grown elephant weighs around seven to ten kgs.
Ranjit Mukherjee, a former hunter who had put down rogue jumbos on behalf of the forest departments of Bengal and neighbouring states, said: "I am shocked with the incident as ivory trade is banned worldwide. Poachers usually sell the tusks after cutting it into pieces. This helps them evade the enforcement noose," he added.
Delhi-based Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) has recorded the loss of over 121 elephants due to poaching in a period of four years — between 2008 and 2011. During this period, the NGO has records of 781 kg of ivory, 69 tusks, 31 cut pieces of ivory, 99 pieces of ivory carvings and 75 ivory bangles that have been seized from different parts of the country.
Data shows that elephant poaching and ivory trade is rampant in states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Assam, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Bihar.