In the hunt for lucre and luck by a section of people in the State, it is the endangered animals that are running out of luck.

Fraudsters are gypping people trying to make quick bucks by selling them animals or charms, promising them that the animals will bring them luck and money.

There has been an upswing in demand for the barn owl (vellimoonga), slender loris, believing that it entails good luck. And the fabled Nagamanikyam (a precious gem on the hood of a cobra) figures high on the list of bounty-hunters in the State.

K.N. Anilkumar of the Kerala Yukthivadhi Sanghom recalled a case where the Forest department officials in Perumbavoor arrested a person for trying to sell a slender loris (a small nocturnal primate found only in the tropical rainforests of South India and Sri Lanka).

“People believe that all parts of the slender loris have therapeutic properties. The sale was fixed for a price range between Rs. 4 and 5 lakh. There is also great demand for barn owls, priced between Rs. 8 and 10 lakh. Some individuals believe that having a barn owl at home will bring luck and prosperity,” he said.

A. Akbar, Superintendent of Police (Analysis Wing) at the Crime Branch headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram, recalled an incident during his earlier tenure as SP, Alappuzha, when a gang netted lakhs from several persons as advance for handing over the ‘nagamanikyam’.

He said the accused used to take the potential buyers to a remote place near Ambasamudram in Tamil Nadu. They had cut a small portion of the plastic side of a tooth brush and carved it like a pearl. Members of the gang would illuminate the ‘pearl’ using a light source to make the buyers believe that it was a ‘nagamanikyam’.

An officer at the Agali police station said a person from Attapadi tribal area was killed in 2002 after he took advance from a few persons promising to hand over the mythical gem. The crime occurred in the forest area where the victim had taken them to show the ‘precious gem’.

Noted psychiatrist C.J. John said a pervasive greed culture made Malayalis vulnerable and deprives them of the ability to learn from experience. The victims always fell in the trap for quick material gains, he said. “We may be proud of being a literate State. But the fact remains that we will not apply much logic while adopting this short-cut to become rich,” he said.

Police said the chances of registering complaints against those involved in the illegal sale of barn owls and slender loris were remote as the victims preferred not to reveal their identity fearing ridicule. Alex K. John, Superintendent of Police, Crime Branch CID, said such cases didn’t figure in the fraudsters’ gallery available in Ernakulam district.

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