By Kevin Heath
Forest officials in Kerala state have seized 1,000 leopard claws from Guruvayur. It is thought that the claws originated from Sudan but mystery still surrounds the source of the claws. This single seizure represents the deaths of at least 55 of the big cats.
Some senior officers from the Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department have suggested that at least some of the leopard claws are not genuine and the haul is made up of ‘fake claws’. Other officials believe that the claws may originate from India rather than Sudan and represents a long campaign of leopard poaching in the country.
The special investigation squad of the Forest Department made the discovery and arrested 3 people in connection with the haul. The claws have been sent to laboratories for analysis.
One of those arrested has a relative in Sudan and this leads the officials to believe that the leopards may have originated in that country and then imported into India. The analysis of the claws should confirm whether they originated in Sudan or from India itself.
The analysis will also confirm if all of the seized claws are genuine leopard claws or not. Criminal gangs involved in the trading of the claws will often bulk up packages of genuine claws with fake on made from cattle horns.
Leopard claws are popular as ornaments and amulets on bracelets and necklaces as superstition suggests that the claws can bring good luck. Leopards have 18 claws each. There are 4 claws on each paw and the two front paws each have a smaller ‘dewclaw’.