Tuesday, February 5, 2008

CBI probe into wildlife trade demanded

By A Staff Reporter


Hinting that the stock of wildlife body parts such as tiger skin, rhino horn, ivory, etc., under the custody of the State Forest Department could well have found their way to the illegal international racket in wildlife trade, Nature’s Beckon, an environmental NGO, today called for a CBI probe into the matter. Addressing a press conference, Soumyadeep Datta, director, Nature’s Beckon, said that as per information obtained by it from the Forest Department through application of the RTI Act, the number of rhino horns, elephant tusks, tiger skins and leopard skins under custody of the Forest Department (either seized or recovered from natural death cases) were 1,498, 1,334, 6 and 3 respectively.

According to Datta, the Forest Department’s stock of body parts, particularly tiger and leopard skins, was too small considering that the department had been collecting those since at least 1972.

“We suspect that a large share of wildlife body parts sold in the international market comes from the Forest Department stock due to the nexus of some dishonest officials of the department with illegal wildlife traders, and we urge Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to institute a CBI inquiry to clear up the matter,” Datta said.

When contacted, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), MC Malakar said that the bodies of dead tigers or leopards were never skinned and always disposed as a whole.

“The practice with the department is to dispose the carcasses without skinning. The department keeps with it only the seized skins, and there have been few seizures of tiger and leopard skins,” he said.

Malakar also revealed that the department was planning to destroy all the animal body parts including rhino horn, ivory, skins, etc., under its custody. “We are taking up the matter with the ministry concerned so that all the body parts at our disposal are destroyed,” he said.

Rhino horn, ivory, and tiger and leopard skin are much-sought-after items in the nefarious trade in animal body parts, especially in South East Asia. With the North-East sharing borders with several South East Asian countries, it has become a target area for poachers and international smugglers. Last year, 18 rhinos of Kaziranga National Park were killed by poachers.

Source: http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/details.asp?id=feb0508/at03

No comments: