HYDERABAD: Telangana forest department officials of the Kawal Tiger Reserve busted a pangolin smuggling racket and arrested ten persons from the Mancherial and Asifabad districts. They also rescued a live pangolin from them, apart from seizing a car and mobile phones.
The pangolin is a critically endangered species listed under Schedule 1 in the Wildlife Protection Act. Hunting and trading of the animal is a serious offence and punishable with a minimum of seven years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of not less than Rs 5 lakh.
Kawal Tiger Reserve Field Director CP Vinod Kumar told The New Indian Express that teams of forest officials from Mancherial and Asifabad districts were formed, who were keeping watch on the persons involved in the racket and investigated the wildlife crime.
The investigation started one month back when forest officials came across a video on YouTube that offered interested parties live pangolins for sale, promising magical cures and health benefits. One of the persons involved in the trade even posted his phone number in the comments section.
The forest department officials started observing the concerned persons and then tracked them until they could lay their hands on everyone involved in the racket. Under cover, forest officials got in touch with the main dealer of the racket, who had asked a price of Rs 10 lakh for the animal.
The forest officials arrested 10 accused persons and registered a case under the Wildlife Protection Act. The accused were produced before the Judicial First Class Magistrate, Sirpur.
The accused have been identified as Banoth Kumar, Avunuri Santosh, Dasari Shekar, Surmalla Ravinder and Dole Mallikarjuna of Mancherial district and Kotturi Ashanna, Vinkare Prakash, Syed Dawood, Gomase Chiranjeevi and Utnoori Pochaiah of Asifabad district.