Customs seize tiger, croc skins

Customs seize tiger, croc skins

10 Apr 2009, 0406 hrs IST, TNN

KOLKATA: A day after the arrest of Panchanan Giri, the kingpin of a tiger poaching racket in the Sunderbans, two persons were caught while attempting to smuggle out tiger and crocodile skins from Kolkata.

The interception and arrest of Indrajit Laha and Nibedita Chakraborty points to a wider ring behind poaching in the Sunderbans.

This is the third instance of tiger poaching coming to light in the state. The discovery of a tiger carcass in October led to Giri’s arrest from a remote island in the Sunderbans on Wednesday. Just over a month ago, forest department officers seized another tiger skin from a fisherman’s home in Kultali, South 24-Parganas.

On Thursday, the duo was netted red-handed around 2 pm before they could hand the skins over to a receiver. Acting on a tip-off, five Customs officers of the prevention and intelligence wing followed a cab from Kudghat, in the southern fringes of the city, and intercepted it at Italgacha near Kolkata airport’s gate no. 2. Customs officers recovered a skin of an adult male tiger and a crocodile skin stuffed inside a jute bag. The bag was in the boot of the cab.

During interrogation, Bhawanipore resident Laha and Kudghat resident Nibedita revealed that they were appointed to hand over the skins to a particular person in exchange of Rs 5,000. Investigators believe the skins were acquired in the Sunderbans.

Six months ago, the activity of poachers came to light after the discovery of the carcass of an adult male tiger was found floating on the Dobanki river near Sandeshkhali. It had been shot twice. Later, the CID picked up two poachers, both residents of the Sunderbans. It was during their interrogation that Giri’s name came to light. Now, with Giri behind bars, forest officers have a new kingpin to reckon with.

“We suspect that the tiger was killed in the Sunderbans. An international racket is active,” said a Customs officer on Thursday evening. Investigators are trying to get at the root of the racket.

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