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Puma skin found in parcel sent by post from U.S.

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It is an endangered species; illegal to indulge in its trade

It was labelled as a rug, being sent from the United States to India through the U.S. Postal Service. But when the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) officials opened the parcel at Kolkata's Foreign Post Office on August 7 they discovered the full skin of what is suspected to be a puma.

The puma, otherwise known as a mountain cat or cougar, is native to North America. It is an endangered species and falls under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which makes it illegal to indulge in international trade of specimens or animal parts.

“Initially, we thought it might be a lynx, which is an Appendix II animal. We thought the sender might have just forgotten to include his CITES permission document,” said Rina Mitra, additional director of the WCCB.

Trade in a species listed in Appendix II is not completely banned, but is only allowed under strict regulation. “But then we did further testing and discovered that it seems to be the skin of a puma, which is an Appendix I animal.”

Since the parcel had been declared as a “rug”, it was clear that this was a deliberate effort to sneak the skin into the country illegally, she said.

The WCCB officials had conducted the special operation after receiving a tip off that parts of a big cat were being transported through post.

“Over the last two years, we have been seeing a lot more consignments of illegal wildlife trade in the postal services,” said Ms. Mitra, adding that while most of the illegal trade through the post was of wildlife parts being smuggled out of the country, this was the first big seizure of an inbound parcel.

Strict scrutiny

The WCCB is now advocating strict scrutiny of parcels, couriers and railway mail services to prevent illegal trade. It is in touch with its American counterparts and the postal service as well.

“This seems to be one of the safest, most innocuous methods for smugglers,” said Ms. Mitra.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 10:19:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Puma-skin-found-in-parcel-sent-by-post-from-U.S./article16134053.ece

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