GUWAHATI, Mar 28: In an ominous sign for big cat protection efforts, a gigantic Royal Bengal tiger skin and over 200 pieces of skeletal bones were seized while being smuggled across the vulnerable Assam-Arunachal border on Saturday.
The Guwahati unit of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) made a surprise raid at Banderdew checkpoint around 5 pm, and hauled up a Santro. Two poachers, who are yet to be identified, fled while the driver, Dipak Powdel Chetry, was arrested with the booty.
Later, it was uncovered to be the skin of a fully-grown up Royal Bengal tiger, about 15 years of age and complete with the head, paws, nails and tail. It measured a whopping 10 feet and 11 inches in length. Plus, a bag was recovered with over 200 pieces of bones - in all, an estimated Rs 1.2 crore in the international black market, police said.
Notably, this is only one in a string of cases of tiger poaching which has come to the notice of law enforcement agencies in the East.
Thomas Basu, deputy director, DRI (Guwahati), told a news agency, “We produced Chetry in North Lakhimpur court and he is in judicial custody. An investigation is on to find his accomplices. He has told us that the product was destined for south-east Asian countries from Bhutan, Tibet, Myanmar - the point to which poachers have to safely deliver the consignment.”
“Once it’s across the border, the material can be sent further easily,” he said. Vasanthan B, divisional forest officer (DFO) of Lakhimpur (north Assam), who assisted in the operation, said, “As per Wildlife Institute of India (WII) guidelines, the hide is being sent to an FSL for further analysis. Our digital records and expertise on tiger stripes will determine which sanctuary, forest or area he came from.”
“The Royal Bengal tigers are spread across Assam, Arunachal and West Bengal. They are found in the mangroves of Sunderbans, Manas National Park, Kaziranga Tiger Reserve, Orang National Park, Pakke Tiger Reserve, Namdapha National Park, Dying Ering Wildlife Sanctuary, Nameri and Laokhowa Wildlife sanctuary,” he added.
The Royal Bengal tiger (Panthera Tigris) is known to be the largest and most powerful sub-species of the cat family.
They are known to inhabit a variety of weathers and topologies ranging from scrub and deciduous forests to Himalayan snow mountains and mangroves. Overall,
India has a tiger census of 2,226 as per the 2014 WII census, but poaching has also gone up significantly.
Even in December 2016, a gang of three poachers was arrested in West Bengal’s Hasimara in Alipurduar near Subhasani tea estate on NH 31, with three
tiger skins and bones. Sources said they were heading towards the Indo-Bhutan border through Jaigaon.
Earlier, four members of a gang who were hunting in Dooars had been arrested with an AK-47 rifle, and during interrogation, they had mentioned the names of these accused. (Agency)