|27 leopard skins seized in 45 days
13 September 2008
by Avijit Ghosh
DELHI: From the border outposts of north Bengal to the small towns of
Uttarakhand to the remote forest-rich district of Gondia in
Maharashtra, 27 leopard skins have been seized in the past 45 days,
showing up the untrammelled trade in protected species.
latest seizure took place last Tuesday in Jaigaon, a small kasbah on
the Indo-Bhutan border, that has been recently the setting for several
cases of wildlife trafficking. "We had been tipped off about the skins.
The carriers collected the consignment from a fruit-seller's shop in
the market. They were about to slip away when we nabbed them," said
district forest officer Ujjwal Ghosh over phone.
were arrested with three leopard skins. One skin was that of a female
adult with apparent bullet injury marks. The remaining two skins were
stripped off cubs, barely 7-10 days old. Wildlife experts say at least
120 leopards have been poached in 2008 and that the recent hauls
(between July 27 to September 9) reveal the hand of organized gangs.
poaching is being reported from all parts of India and cannot be
treated as isolated incidents," said Tito Joseph of the Wildlife
Protection Society of India. It's the handiwork of organized poachers
who are networking with wildlife traders in India, Nepal and China.
Most of these killings took place in Uttarakhand, Himachal, Maharashtra
and Karnataka," he said.
The past six weeks have seen three
incidents of leopard-skin seizures in Uttarakhand's Vikasnagar town,
around 40km from Dehradun. On August 14, three sins were seized. "They
were to be traded for Rs 50,000 each, though market price of leopard
skins is usually double this figure," said Devender Rawat,
Joseph believes speedy trials are imperative
to dismantle these illegal trading networks. "Let us not forget that
most organized wildlife criminals are repeat offenders," he added.