Wildlife experts red flag care of exotic animals smuggled in from Myanmar

While smuggling of endangered and exotic animals from Myanmar has been rising, the upkeep, nursing, protection and care of the recovered wild animals is not always appropriate and adequate, raising concerns among wildlife experts and animal lovers.

They said that after the recovery of the huge number of smuggled endangered and exotic animals, they, as per the guidelines of the Central Zoo Authority, must be kept in proper quarantine with proper diet and care but in most cases this is not being done.

Northeast India’s biodiversity conservation organisation “Aaranyak”, Mizoram based Youth for Environment Justice Mizoram (YEJM), Tripura based Centre for Aquatic Research and Environment (CARE) separately urged the authorities to take all precautionary measures, care, treatment, protection and rehabilitation of the wild animals after their recovery.

A delegation of YEJM led by its Convener Vanramchhuangi met Mizoram governor Hari Babu Kambhampati at the Aizawl Raj Bhavan on Friday and told the governor that many exotic animals are being smuggled through Mizoram for sale in destinations outside Mizoram.

These animals are often recovered from smugglers by various law enforcement agencies.

“After the recovery of the animals they are being kept temporarily at makeshift rescue centres and other enclosures set up at the zoo. The animals are being poorly looked after and poorly fed,” Vanramchhuangi told Kambhampati.

For a temporary solution, the YEJM proposed the construction of holding facilities for the animals in Aizawl city and Champhai, bordering Myanmar.

The YEJM delegation also expressed concern over the possibility of the domestic animals and the state wildlife population getting infected by these exotic animals with the diseases they can potentially carry.

The Governor shared his appreciation that the youth of Mizoram are now showing concern for activities that are directly or indirectly affecting the environment of Mizoram.

He urged the YEJM as a movement to keep up the good work for the protection of the environment in Mizoram.

The India-Myanmar unfenced border, which is not only a hotspot for illegal trade and smuggling of various highly addictive drugs, gold, arms and ammunition and other contraband worth thousands of crores of rupees, has also turned an infamous route for smuggling of endangered and exotic animals from Myanmar.

Eastern Mizoram’s Champhai district bordering Myanmar and Moreh in Chandel district in southern Manipur are the two main corridors for the clandestine trade in both drugs and wild animals.

According to security officials, after the drugs and wild animals are smuggled from Myanmar to the northeastern states, these are supposed to be ferried to West Bengal, specifically the Alipurduar-Cooch Behar-Jalpaiguri-Siliguri belt.

Forest officials said Myanmar, now under military rule, has been the origin of most exotic and rare animals smuggled into the northeastern states, specially Mizoram and Manipur, and then to northern West Bengal and other places in the country.

On October 15, the Mizoram police rescued 140 exotic animals, seized drugs worth Rs 34.18 crore and arrested four persons in this connection.

The rescued animals included 30 tortoises, four monkeys, 22 pythons, 18 Sumatran water monitors, 55 crocodiles (hatchlings), four Flame powerbirds, four Servel cats, and one Albino wallaby.

The Assam Police in one of the biggest seizures of smuggled animals on September 8 seized 40 rare and exotic animals, including 19 primates and two baby wallabies, from two West Bengal-bound Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) at Rangia in Kamrup district and arrested two people.

The SUVs with the exotic animals had travelled more than 720 km through three bordering northeastern states — Mizoram, Meghalaya and Assam — before being intercepted on National Highway-31 at Rangia, 55 km northwest of Assam’s main city of Guwahati.

On August 24, the Mizoram Police rescued nine exotic animals, smuggled from Myanmar, and detained two persons in the state’s Kolasib district.

A police officer said that the Vairengte Police personnel intercepted a vehicle at the checkpoint in Kolasib district and rescued two capybaras and seven grey monkeys from a car that was also seized by the police.

On May 25, a total of 468 endangered exotic animals, including 442 lizards, smuggled from Myanmar, were seized by the police and wildlife enforcement agencies in Mizoram’s Champhai district and five people were arrested in this connection.

On May 8, kangaroos, rats, meerkats, white cockatoos and Burmese pythons, — all exotic animals not indigenous to India — were seized after they were smuggled from Myanmar.

There were cases that exotic animals seized in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh were smuggled from Myanmar and ferried through Mizoram to these states.

According to Aaranyak chief Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, there seems to be a trend of keeping exotic animals as pets leading to the rising trafficking in these animals.

“Our biggest worry is that these endangered animals, unlike those exchanged by zoos, being traded, transported and unscientifically kept without health screening, carry the risk of spreading various diseases endangering the lives of both animals and humans,” Talukdar said.

Gauhati High Court Judge N. Kotiswar Singh while addressing a recent workshop on wildlife at Bongaigaon said that the security forces including the central para-military forces cannot ignore the crimes related to wildlife although their main duty is to ensure security of the area they are posted in.

Addressing the workshop, Justice Soumitra Saikia of the Gauhati High Court highlighted some key provisions in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, as well as the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure that are equally applicable.

CARE Secretary Apurba Kumar Dey said that after the recovery of the smuggled exotic animals, they suffered a lot during the official and legal formalities and their natural care and protection is not always provided properly.

“Central Zoo Authority, veterinary doctors, wildlife experts must look into these aspects very seriously and must point out the existing loopholes and shortcomings,” Dey told IANS.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

20221030-081805

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