Tiger and leopard skins seized, three traders arrested in Tamil Nadu
Dindigul (Tamil Nadu), April 6, 2009: A tiger skin and a leopard skin were seized yesterday at Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, in a joint undercover operation by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) assisted by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). Three ‘crafty’ and experienced wildlife traders were arrested.
The arrest was made by a joint enforcement team, when the traders arrived at a designated spot to deliver the contraband to a decoy customer. The traders reportedly attacked the team members on realising that the deal was a trap. One of the team members received minor injury in the scuffle.
“The operation involved months of surveillance and fake liasoning with the traders, carried out under the leadership of Mr Narayanan, Southern Region Deputy Director, WCCB. The aim was to trap the actual traders and not the ‘carriers’, who generally have no idea of the gravity of the situation while agreeing to the ‘job’ for quick money. Led by Mr Thangaraj, DFO, Dindigul, the enforcement team which carried out the seizure, patiently and closely followed the traders for two days while another team acting as decoy customers fixed the date of purchase,” said a member of the team that managed the operation.
The monitoring revealed that the traders were highly cautious in their dealings. To ensure a genuine deal, the traders had placed the prospective buyers under surveillance.
“The traders were so wily that they had a counter monitoring team in place to verify the authenticity of the buyers. However, efficient coordination between WCCB, Forest Department and WTI officials, ensured that the enforcement team were always one-step ahead. We believe that the skins (of sub-adult animals) changed three or four hands before it reached the traders who were arrested yesterday. Authorities are investigating the matter,” he added.
Ashok Kumar, Vice-chairman, WTI, said, “As per our records, at least 16 tiger and 31 leopard skins were seized across India last year. The seizures have continued this year as well, which is an indicator that tigers and leopards are being poached from the wild. While these seizures definitely help wildlife conservation by discouraging traders, there is an urgent need to check poaching (in the first place) to prevent this insidious and tragic loss of animals from our wilds.”
Wildlife Trust of India
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Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
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