Betting in parts of Manipur has literally gone wild.
The police and forest officials in the State’s Ukhrul town have been scanning “gambling dens” following reports of wild animals – dead or alive – being offered as prizes for raffle draws.
Ukhrul is about 80 km northeast of the State capital Imphal.
Wildlife activists based in the town said that there have been instances of people buying raffle draw tickets ranging from ₹100 to ₹500 to try their luck to win exotic meat. The larger or rarer the bird or animal or body part, the higher the price of the ticket.
“Such cases of gambling with a wildlife twist have been happening under the very noses of the authorities, particularly on a 5-km stretch where the Mini Secretariat is located,” an activist said, declining to be named. Some of these raffle draws and other forms of gambling are organised under the pretext of raising funds for some cause or the other, he added.
Apart from wild boars and deer, animals such as binturong (an arboreal mammal also known as bearcat), squirrels and flying foxes (bats) have been found to be on offer. Different types of birds such as the grey-sided thrush and tragopans (often called horned pheasants) have also been spotted.
The Blyth’s tragopan is the State bird of adjoining Nagaland.
“We are scanning the public places where such cases [of raffle draws] have been reported from. We have not detected any case after the report,” Shanngam Shaliwo, the divisional forest officer concerned told The Hindu. The police, too, said they have not caught anyone gambling for a piece of wild meat so far.
Manipur forest department officials said that they have regularly been conducting awareness campaigns on wildlife crime and the offences prescribed for violating the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972.
“We have been making public announcements banning the use of airguns and underlining the ills of poaching. We hope something positive will come out of it,” a forest officer said.