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39 Bengal-bound exotic animals seized in Assam

Police said the two persons arrested for transporting the animals from the Mizoram-Myanmar border are from Tamil Nadu

September 08, 2022 02:04 pm | Updated September 09, 2022 08:02 am IST - GUWAHATI

Monkeys at the Assam Zoological Park in Guwahati. Baby wallabies, chimpanzees, monkeys and tortoises were among the exotic animals seized in Mizoram-Myanmar border. File photo

Monkeys at the Assam Zoological Park in Guwahati. Baby wallabies, chimpanzees, monkeys and tortoises were among the exotic animals seized in Mizoram-Myanmar border. File photo | Photo Credit: AP

: The Assam police on Thursday seized 39 exotic animals from two Delhi-registered SUVs that travelled from the Mizoram-Myanmar border and were bound for Siliguri in northern West Bengal.

This was the biggest seizure of smuggled exotic animals in Assam. Two of these animals are joeys or baby wallabies, 19 are chimpanzees and monkeys, 13 small turtles, three large tortoises and two exotic birds.

“The Rangiya police intercepted the vehicles following a tip-off and arrested two people after finding the rare animals packed in cages. The two said they travelled from the Mizoram-Myanmar border and were heading for Siliguri for delivering the consignment,” Hitesh Chandra Roy, the Superintendent of Police of Kamrup district told The Hindu.

Rangiya is about 55 km north-west of Guwahati. The two vehicles had travelled at least 720 km through three States – Mizoram, Meghalaya and Assam – before being stopped on National Highway 31.

Sunnydeo Chaudhary, the divisional forest officer of North Kamrup Division said the two arrested persons — identified as Raghu from Theni district and Karthik from Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu — were being interrogated for information about others involved in the animal-trafficking trade.

“The animals have been taken to the Assam State Zoo where their health condition would be assessed and the species identified,” he said.

North Bengal hub?

Assam Forest officials said Myanmar, despite the civil war, has been the source of most exotic animals smuggled into the northeast and then to the “mainland” with northern West Bengal becoming a hub of this illegal trade.

The exotic animals have been transported within India on two routes so far. One is from Champhai bordering Myanmar in Mizoram and the other is from Moreh, also bordering Myanmar, in Manipur.  Animals transported on the second route touch Dimapur in Nagaland.

Most people arrested in Assam while transporting such animals said they were paid to deliver their consignments in West Bengal, specifically the Alipurduar-Cooch Behar-Jalpaiguri-Siliguri belt.

This became more than apparent when Forest officials in West Bengal found four kangaroos in the Gajoldoba area of Jalpaiguri in April. Two more kangaroos – one dead, the other injured – were found in the Dabgram forest range.

The West Bengal Forest officials also rescued four monkeys smuggled from Indonesia from a Siliguri-bound bus around that time.

In July 2020, The Assam Forest officials seized a red kangaroo, six hyacinth macaw, two capuchin monkeys from South Africa and three Aldabra giant tortoises from a truck near the State’s border with Mizoram.

In March, the Assam police found macaws, silvery marmosets, and golden-headed tamarin – all exotic animals from Brazil’s Amazon – while conducting routine checks in Golaghat district. These animals were smuggled via Moreh, officials said.

“There seems to be a craze for keeping exotic animals as pets, which is fuelling the animal trafficking racket. But the biggest worry is that these animals, unlike those exchanged by zoos, come in without health screening, thus posing the risk of spreading diseases,” Bibhab Talukdar of the Assam-based green group Aaranyak said.

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