KHATMANDU: The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) here busted an animal skin smuggling racket on Tuesday and arrested three persons while trying to smuggle the skin of an endangered clouded leopard.
The trio, including one from neighbouring Meghalaya, was nabbed while they were on their way to an agent from Manipur to sell the skin. The sleuths, who nabbed them from the Noonmati area near the Guwahati Refinery revealed that the skin was brought from somewhere in the North Garo Hills in Meghalaya. The three were identified as Rignarius B Sanga from Atiabari in North Garo hills district, Dipen Deka from Nalbari and Md Abdus Salam from Gauripur in Dhubri district. The operation was led by KK Sarma, assistant director, WCCB here.
While Deka is a driver, Salam is a mason and both have been staying at a rented house in the Jyotinagar area. A WCCB official said, “Sanga brought the skin, believed to be of a young clouded leopard, from someone who had killed it almost two years back. Then he befriended the two others and the trio decided to sell the skin to an agent from Manipur.” He added that the trio had fixed the deal and planned to sell the skin at Rs 5 lakh. However, the agent and at least three others are still at large and operation is on to nab them.
Preliminary investigation revealed that the leopard skin has bullet marks. “The length of the skin is 4 feet and the width is around 2 feet. The leopard was shot dead and two bullet marks on its back endorse it,” informed the official, adding that there has been a rising trend in the smuggling of animal skins, mainly that of leopards, recently. “Animal skins and their body parts are usually smuggled to Nepal via West Bengal. While leopard skin is used for decorative purposes, the bones are used for making traditional medicines. The skin is reportedly used in some religious functions in Nepal,” sources added.
In August, the WCCB and customs department here had seized two leopard skins, including one of an endangered clouded leopard, and around 3 kg of leopard bones in the Gorchuk area. Here, too, the investigation found that the clouded leopard was killed in Meghalaya. The clouded leopard is considered one of the rarest cat family species. The leopard can be found throughout the Himalayan foothills and right up to Southeast Asia and China. Less than 10,000 mature clouded leopards are believed to be still existing around the world.