Telangana

Pangolin scale racket puzzles officials

The accused who were nabbed with pangolin scales recently.

The accused who were nabbed with pangolin scales recently.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Recent operation by the Telangana Forest Department officials busting the inter-State smuggling racket of pangolin scales has brought focus on the rampant poaching of the wild animal in the forests of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

The officials, during an undercover operation posed as potential buyers of the scales, and nabbed 12 persons in a sequence of events, leading from one trader to another at various locations.

The smugglers were operating from five States, including Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Orissa and Bengal, apart from Telangana, officials informed.

It was a joint effort by the Forest officials of Hyderabad, Kothagudem, Bhadrachalam, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh who followed a lead from Kothagudem to unearth the racket.

Exorbitant price

Three to four kilograms of pangolin scales were confiscated from the gang, for which three to five animals might have been killed, most probably from Dammapet forest region of Kothagudem, officials surmise.

They are however unable to establish the reason for the exorbitant price at which the scales were being offered.

An official involved in the operation said, the price quoted went up to ₹40 lakh to ₹50 lakh per scale! Though the suspicion is that the scales were being smuggled out to countries such as China, such a link is yet to be established.

Recently, China is reported to have imposed a ban on wildlife meat and removed pangolin scales from its list of approved traditional medicine, in the context of the COVID-19 spread.

Most trafficked mammals

Officials under the condition of anonymity said that the scales might be on their way to China by road via Bihar, Nepal, Manipur, and Myanmar. Pangolins are among the world’s most trafficked mammals, and Indian Pangolin is listed as the “species that are threatened with extinction and may be affected by trade” under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

‘Ignorance, superstition’

However, on the record, officials do not confirm any such connection. They attribute it to mere ignorance and superstition of the buyers involved.

“We cannot confirm the China connection, as we do not have any such leads so far. It seems to be just hype, like in the case of smuggling of the Red Sand Boa. Pangolins are usually killed by the tribal people for their meat, after which their skin and scales are offered for sale. Eventually, they appear on websites with exorbitant prices, which could trap gullible buyers,” said DFO, Vigilance, M. Raja Ramana Reddy.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2020 9:53:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/pangolin-scale-racket-puzzles-officials/article32288749.ece

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