By P. Naveen
BHOPAL: In a major breakthrough Madhya Pradesh forest department on Monday arrested 13 people including a Kolkata-based marine engineer and a corporator involved in smuggling Indian pangolins to China and Vietnam.
Accused have allegedly confessed to poaching and trafficking of 100 pangolins from Madhya Pradesh to China in the last 12 months. Officials confiscated 2 kg pangolin scales from their possession. Blood, meat and scales of pangolins are sold to traditional medical practitioners at a premium in south eastern countries.
Those arrested from Kolkata have been identified as Jamal Iqbal, 59, and his son Danish, 24. Eleven others including an independent corporator were arrested from Chhindwara district.
While Jamal is into leather business, his son Danish was studying marine engineering and was arrested three days before completion of his course.
Chief conservator of forest (CCF), Chhindwara, Chitranjan Tyagi told TOI Jamal had developed a large pangolin poaching network in Madhya Pradesh with the help of Nafeez Ahmad, an independent corporator in Chhindwara.
"Tribal people were used to pick up pangolins from jungle and were paid Rs 400 to 500 per kg of its scales. It was then forwarded to Jamal between Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000 and was further shipped to China where it's sold for around Rs 1 lakh and more," Tyagi said.
Entire operation was carried out by special task force (STF) of state forest department led by Chhindwara CCF. SDO Ritesh Sirothia, range officer, Nitin Nigam and forest guard Chandra Sekhar Sharma played a key role in busting the racket.
This ant-eating mammal with armour of keratin scales has been listed under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as an endangered species. Experts said, "If poaching continues, pangolin could go extinct."
Officials claim there are two smuggling routes to China-Nepal through north Bengal, Manipur and Myanmar.
In traditional Chinese medicine, roasted pangolin scales are used for detoxification of blood, draining pus, curing palsy and stimulating lactation while its blood is used to treat asthma, cancer and reproductive problems in China.