By Vijay Pinjarkar
NAGPUR: Even as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh officials are groping in the dark about seizure of 43kg pangolin scales by Kelwad police officials, the wildlife crime points to a major interstate racket leading to global links.
The latest case is an eye-opener as it is the second biggest seizure in the country in the last two years. The biggest was in Assam in July 2013 when 85kg scales were seized in one case.
On the night of September 22, Kelwad PI Sunil Pardhi had seized four bags containing 43kg scales from a private bus coming to Nagpur from Chhindwara. The accused Jamal Chunnilal Ikbal Ansari (63) of Navapur in Balia district of UP is under MCR.
Though Ansari was nabbed under the jurisdiction of Khapa forest range in Nagpur division, he admitted to have procured the scales from some locals in Tamia near Pachmarhi.
DyCF for West Chhindwara NK Sanodia said he has no information about the crime. Pardhi said, "I learn that staff from Saunsar is going to take up the accused. Yesterday two forest guards had approached us but did nothing."
Wildlife experts say 43kg scales mean almost 17 pangolins must have been killed in just one case. Pangolin is an extremely endangered species and is listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act.
"It appears that poachers are taking out pangolin from the Satpuda landscape in a big way. This case may throw more light on the modus operandi of poachers and areas where they are operating because very little is known about the distribution of pangolin. The instant case has interstate and international ramifications," said Nitin Desai, director, Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).
Central India adviser for WTI Prafulla Bhamburkar informed that pangolin is listed as 'vulnerable' on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.
Pangolins are nocturnal animals. They live in boroughs in hilly forested areas with rocky outcrops and feed mainly on ants. In the jungle it is nearly invincible and has no natural enemy. Tigers and leopards may try to hunt it but the pangolin just turns itself into a ball frustrating its attacker.
This harmless animal is being persecuted by greedy wildlife traders for its scales for long. The scales are in great demand in eastern countries like China, Vietnam and Cambodia where it is believed to be a cure for medical conditions related to blood circulation, cancer and lactation problems.
Illegal trade in pangolin scales has always been there. It witnessed a spurt in 2013 and 2014. In 2013 alone, there were 10 seizures of pangolin scales in the country amounting to 211kg of scales.
Hunting a pangolin or illegal trade or possession of its parts attracts punishment equivalent to that of a tiger or a leopard. This species is threatened by heavy hunting pressure and habitat loss.