The Wildlife Wing of the Forest and Environment Department with the assistance of the Meghalaya Police and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) seized a huge quantity of live animals and articles of endangered species listed in the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 in two separate incidents.
On receipt of a specific input that certain persons are involved in organised trade and trafficking of wild animals and articles, on April 19, a joint team of the Forest and Environment Department, Meghalaya Police and the WCCB led by I. Arul Mathuram, IFS, Divisional Forest Officer, Khasi Hills Wildlife Division raided the house of one Victorious Masharing at Khliehumstem village in Ri-Bhoi district.On searching the house, the team found 44.64 kg scales of Chinese Pangolin, four live Chinese Pangolins and 43 Tokay Geckos. An electronic weighing scale used to weigh the animals and articles was also found in the house.
Apart from Victorious Masharing, seven other persons, identified as Pynshngianlang Sten, Fieldstar Lyngdoh, Banker Ronghang, Darwin Phangcho, Edison Teron, Klinson Bey and Siparlin Rani were also present in the house.
The team arrested all the eight persons and seized the animal articles and live animals along with the weighing scale, utensils used to keep the live Pangolins, seven mobile phones, rupees twenty-five thousand five hundred in cash, one brown colour bag and three vehicles bearing registration numbers AS 025 -0127, ML-10 A -9330 and ML 10 C 4056 found parked in the house of Victorious Masharing at the time of the raid.
After completion of the raid, they brought the arrested persons along with the seized articles to Shillong.
The Tokay Geckos were packed in bamboo pieces in a very inhumane condition. One of the live Pangolins was severely injured and even after providing the best possible care by the Department Veterinarian succumbed to the injuries before it could be released in the wild after obtaining permission from the Court.
Victorious Masharing is presently serving in the Assam Rifles.
The Session Judge, Ri-Bhoi District, Nongpoh remanded all the eight persons to judicial custody for seven days. Further investigation to find out the origin and potential buyers of these articles and other persons involved in trafficking is in progress.
In another incident, on April 20, the Wildlife Wing of the Forest and Environment Department received information that some persons are likely to transport a consignment of elephant tusks through the Patharkhmah–Umling Road. Accordingly, a joint team of the Nongpoh Wildlife Range, Nongpoh Police Station, and the WCCB laid a trap at Umling.
At about 9.30 PM the team arrested two persons namely, Pyndap Wahlang and Last Sylliang and recovered two elephant tusks, having a total weight of about 3.3 kg from a Maruti Alto 800 car bearing registration Number ML 10 C 2505 coming from the Patharkhmah-Umling Road.
On enquiry, both these persons could not produce any documentary evidence to support the lawful possession of these tusks. The team, therefore, seized both these tusks and car along with two mobile phones in possession of these two persons. The team also arrested both Wahlang and Sylliang and brought them to the Nongpoh Wildlife Range along with the seized articles.
Further investigation to find out the origin and potential buyers of the tusks is in progress.
I. Arul Mathuram IFS, Divisional Forest Officer, Khasi Hills Wildlife Division, Vivekanand Singh Rathore, IPS, Special Superintendent of Police (CID); Gilbert Marshillong, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Ri-Bhoi District; Yoowandaka Najiar, Forest Ranger in-charge Wildlife Protection Range; L. Wahlang, Forest Ranger, Nongpoh Wildlife Range; S. Baraily, Sub-Inspector Nongpoh Police Station and official of the Guwahati sub-regional office of the WCCB, played a crucial role in the operation.
The Chinese Pangolin (Mainis pantadactyla) and the Indian Elephant (Elephus maximus) are listed in Schedule-I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and attract the highest level of protection available to a wild animal in India. Hunting and possession of these animals or any of the part thereof is punishable under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years but may extend to seven years and also with fine which shall not be less than ten thousand rupees.
Tokay Gecko is listed in Schedule-IV to the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. Hunting and possession of these animals of any part of the Tokay Gecko is punishable under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with a fine which may extend up to twenty-five thousand rupees or with both.
Pangolins play a critical role in their ecosystems. They provide the earth with all-natural pest control and are fantastic tenders of soil, and they do these things simply through their everyday behaviours. It is said that a single pangolin consumes as many as 70 million insects, mainly ants and termites, per year.
Pangolins are trafficked for their meat and scales, which are used in traditional Chinese medicines. China is believed to be a major destination for pangolins and pangolin products. The illegal sale and trafficking of Pangolins involve huge environmental, ecological and health risks. As per some unconfirmed reports, the COVID-19 pandemic has originated from the Pangolins sold in wet markets in Wuhan city in China.
Tokay gecko (Gecko gecko) is a nocturnal (active during night time) arboreal (living in trees) lizard native to Asia and some Pacific Islands. While there is some demand for them as pets, the real demand is for their use as traditional Asian medicines—everything from an aphrodisiac and energy drink to treatments for diabetes, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. There’s no proof of their efficacy in any of these uses. The animals are captured, gutted, dried on sticks in kilns, and trafficked, mainly to China but also to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and elsewhere.
The killing of an adult Chinese pangolin yields about 0.50 kg scales. The collection of 44.60 kg scales seized during the operation has involved the killing of at least 90 pangolins. Similarly, the collection of a pair of small size tusks seized during the operation has involved the killing of a young male elephant.