By Saibal Gupta
KOLKATA: Five days ago when the customs department seized three chimpanzees, four marmoset monkeys and a capuchin monkey and huge amount of birds it was apparent that the city has become a major hub for illegal wildlife trading. The officers of wildlife crime control bureau in the last three months have arrested more than 55 people and have seized quite a number of birds and animals.
"In the last couple of years the city has turned into a major hub for wildlife trading. In the last six months we have arrested more than 55 people and have seized a huge number of birds and small animals. Though smuggling of bigger animals like Chimpanzee is little unlikely because of its size but smaller animals are continuously smuggled in and out of the country and Kolkata is used as a very safe route," a senior officer of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau said.
Previously on January 7 this year the wildlife crime control bureau seized nearly 30 kilograms of dead coral worth nearly Rs 5 lakh and arrested one Gopal Shaw from his house at Taltala. "Coral is now in a list of the Schedule of Endangered Animals and this is mainly used to manufacture cosmetics and medicine and this has got very high value in the international market. Previously in two other cases we had seized live coral," WCCB Inspector Koushik Mondal said.
"Smuggling of coral is a very new trend in the city because it can easily be smuggled along with fishes and the people who are mainly responsible for seizure hardly have any idea of coral. Even before one year there were no cases of smuggling of coral," Mondal said.
"Apart from that smaller animals like Langur, capuchin - both varieties of monkeys, mongoose, marmosets and exotic birds like mackao or cockatoo are very easily smuggled. Though some birds can be found in open market but the animals are smuggled mainly on demand. The smugglers procure the animals on specific requirement and so we have to depend mainly on informers to get hold of them," an officer of WCCB said.
When asked why Kolkata is becoming vulnerable to this kind of a crime, the officer said, "West Bengal shares its border with three countries- Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh and the porous border is one of the major reason for smuggling. The smugglers mainly use roadways and private transport system to carry these kinds of exotic species and are sent to different states of South India," a WCCB official said.
"We are conducting several days- two in a every couple of days and we have seized a fair number of birds and animals and have arrested some people but we have our limitations also. We are trying to coordinate with other agencies and make a coordinated effort to check this crime," Divisional Forest Officer S Kulanbaivel said.