By K. S. Sudhi
With doubts being raised about an international illegal wildlife trade racket operating between India and some African countries, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Chennai, may issue advisory to enforcement agencies to look out for such activities.
The forest officials of Kerala had this week seized around suspected 1,000 leopard claws from Guruvayur, which is said to have been smuggled in from Sudan. On analysis, the claws were found to have morphological similarity to leopard claws. It also had resemblance to leopard claws that were earlier smuggled in from Sudan in another case, said an official of the Bureau who inspected the contraband.
On inspection, bones were found missing in some of the claws seized in Kochi. Some others were in partly decomposed stage indicating that they might have been collected long time back. There existed the possibility of offenders shipping it from foreign countries than poaching leopards in India, he said.
One of the arrested in the case is also understood to have given a statement that claws were purchased for Rs. 45 a piece from Sudan. The seized samples would be send for DNA analysis shortly for confirming the species and genuineness of the samples, said an investigation officer.
Incidentally, the Chennai customs had seized 13.5 kg of elephant tail hair and 7kg leopard nails in 2011, which were couriered from Sudan. The consignment was recorded as rings in the shipping documents and its value was shown as $10, which raised the suspicion of the Customs officials, said an official from the Chennai Regional office of the Bureau who was involved in the investigation.
With large number of people from African countries frequently travelling to India for education and healthcare, the wildlife traders might attempt to establish their network. The enforcement agencies usually tend to look out for contraband like drugs, explosives and gold. Illegal wildlife trade seemed to have failed to catch the attention of the agencies. Advisory would be issued following the recent incidents, he said.
The Bureau regularly issues advisories and alerts to enforcement agencies to be on the vigil. Besides the officials of the customs and police, awareness and sensitisation programmes are being organised for personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force, staff of private airport and courier agencies. Specific alerts on the modus operandi of wildlife smugglers, including the ways in which they camouflage the consignments, are also issued, he said.