In a major seizure of exotic animals in Assam, the Cachar Forest Division on Tuesday, July 29, confiscated a consignment of exotic wildlife, including a red kangaroo, a pair of Capuchin monkeys and six Hyacinth macaws. The officials busted the smuggling racket at the Assam-Mizoram border.
The red kangaroo is the largest of all kangaroos in Australia and Hyacinth macaws are a species of parrots native to South America. The rescued animals also included three rare Aldabra tortoises - one of the world's largest land tortoises native to Aldabra island, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest raised coral atoll in the Indian Ocean on Outer Islands of Seychelles.
The Hyacinth macaws and Aldabra tortoises are classified as 'Vulnerable' on the IUCN Red List. They are also protected by their listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
"Six Macaws, one Kangaroo, three rare turtles and two monkeys of rare species were recovered from a vehicle intercepted by Lailapur PP last night. After recovery, they were handed over to forest dept," Cachar Police said in a tweet.
Six Macaws, one Kangaroo, three rare turtles and two monkeys of rare species were recovered from a vehicle intercepted by Lailapur PP last night. After recovery, they were handed over to forest dept. @CMOfficeAssam @assampolice @DGPAssamPolice @gpsinghassam pic.twitter.com/F79lBndUyH— CacharPolice (@cacharpolice) July 29, 2020
The rescued animals were found packed in plastic boxes and cartons in a vehicle that was stopped at a check post in Assam's Cachar district, according to the authorities.
"We have taken the custody of these animals and they are currently in Silchar. Our vets are monitoring their health and their condition is found to be good. But the Hyacinth macaws are very delicate, so we have decided to get all the animals to Assam State Zoo today," Sunnydeo Choudhary, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Cachar was quoted as saying by News18.
The officer added that the two drivers of the seized truck - Narsimha Reddy and Navnath Tukaram Daigude - would be produced in court. After the proceedings, the rescued animals, now at the Cachar Forest Department office, will be transported to Assam State Zoo in Guwahati.
On Tuesday night, the Cachar Forest Department personnel intercepted the truck, which was coming from Mizoram, during a routine check of vehicles to detect smuggling of illegal timber.
"We often check these vehicles for illegal timber. When this truck was trying to pass the area around 11:30 pm, our men at the post asked the driver to stop because they could smell something different. Our staff was very quick in picking up the odd scent. The driver on questioning said it was a consignment of fruits for Covid-19 related work," Choudhary said.
"When we checked the vehicle, we saw these exotic live wild animals stashed inside small cages, and interestingly, there was a kangaroo. This is just the tip of a greater iceberg — a very organised and big trade of trafficked animals. The consignment was either going to Kolkata or Mumbai, presumably from Myanmar. We are investigating," the officer added.
After the rescued animals are taken to the state zoo, the wildlife authorities will take the inventory of the animals at the zoo veterinary hospital. After this, they would be shifted to specially arranged enclosures.
Tejas Mariswamy, DFO, Assam state zoo, said, "We are getting the enclosures ready for animals. We will have to get these spaces sanitised and keep them separately. It would be a good location for them. We have some experience in handling such type of animals, but they might also be carrying diseases."
"In the eighties, Assam Zoo had every kind of animal, including Kangaroos. We have staffers who have been working in the zoo since the eighties. They would be able to help us in handling the new animals," the DFO added.
Congratulating the officers for rescuing the animals, Parimal Suklabaidya, Assam Minister of Excise, Forest and Environment and Fisheries, tweeted, "My heartiest congratulations to the forest officials of Cachar Forest Division who have successfully tracked down & seized an illegal consignment of endangered exotic species including macaws, kangaroo & monkeys enroute to Guwahati. We are alert & active 24X7 to curb such trades."
My heartiest congratulations to the forest officials of Cachar Forest Division who have successfully tracked down & seized an illegal consignment of endangered exotic species including macaws, kangaroo & monkeys enroute to Guwahati. We are alert & active 24X7 to curb such trades pic.twitter.com/PbeeFxgHLG— Parimal Suklabaidya (@ParimalSuklaba1) July 29, 2020
In what was described as the state's biggest seizure of exotic animals, the Assam police and Guwahati Wildlife division, had confiscated a huge consignment of live wild animals and reptiles in March 2018.
The rescued animals included four Gaboon vipers, three marmosets, eight giant scorpions, two albino reticulated pythons, two African spurred tortoises, 13 corn snakes and other exotic animals. The investigation later revealed that the animals were sourced from Thailand and handed over to a broker in Mizoram. However, they were caught at Jorabat, Assam.
"The marmosets did not survive. We could not give them the special diet they are used to as we were not aware of it. This time, we have asked one company in Assam that makes special food for exotic animals to help us with the diet for the monkeys and the kangaroo. We will not repeat the same mistake twice," said DFO Mariswamy.
Meanwhile, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, curbing wildlife trading has become all the more significant.
"Against the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic and its connection to wet markets, it's high time we put an end to practice of keeping these exotic species as pets, refrain from illegal wildlife trade and let these animals live in their natural habitat," D. Deori, forest range officer of Hawaithang range near the Mizoram border was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.
In its first global report on the illegal wildlife trade releases last month, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) described wildlife as a "global threat", which also has links with other organised crimes like modern slavery, drug trafficking and arms trade.
Another report released by World Wide Fund (WWF) last month had said that wildlife trade and deforestation have led to more human-animal interaction resulting in the emergence of new zoonotic disease outbreaks.
"In recent decades, people have increasingly encroached upon the natural world, resulting in escalating levels of contact between humans, livestock and wildlife. As a result, the frequency and number of new zoonotic diseases, originating in animals and transmitted to people, has risen drastically over the last century," the report had said.Also Read: Deforestation, Wildlife Trade Led To Emergence Of Zoonotic Diseases: WWF Report