GUWAHATI: Assam has been registering a sharp rise in the numbers of smuggling of pangolin and its scales. In two incidents recorded within a week, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) in Assam has seized over five kilos of pangolin scales and one live pangolin in multiple numbers of operations.
On Wednesday, the WCCB seized around a total of 5.725 Kg of pangolin scale from two places of Hojai district and nabbed at least five persons. Last Thursday too, WCCB and Assam forest department at Jagiroad seized one live Chinese pangolin and arrested three persons.
WCCB sources said, “The smugglers have changed their modus operandi. These days, instead of carrying the live pangolin, they are trying to smuggle its scale only. In the latest seizures, both the cases were connected.”
Describing the latest modus operandi, a WCCB official informed that the smugglers have now been engaging locals from Karbi Anglong districts to hunt down pangolin. “They (smugglers) ask the villagers to hunt the pangolins and then trade the scales for a few hundred rupees. The villagers eat the meat of the pangolins and then sell the scales to these racketeers,” the official said.
The WCCB has been following the rackets for almost three months now. In a preliminary inquiry, it was found that usually a live pangolin was brought from villagers at some Rs. 40000 and then sold at around Rs 2 lakh.
“Since smuggling of a live pangolin is a trouble, the smugglers are now trying to smuggle the scales only. These scales are usually sent to Dimapur in Nagaland from where they head to other parts of South Asian countries where its scales are believed to have medicinal values,” he added.
Pangolins caught dead or alive here are being trafficked to China’s Yunnan province via Burma, which shares a porous 1,600km border with northeast Indian states like Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.
The Chinese pangolin, also commonly referred to as scaly anteaters, is considered to be a critically endangered species. These animals are widely trafficked globally as there is a huge demand for their scales and meat. WCCB sources said around 6000 pangolins were recovered from smugglers across the country between 2009 and 2017.
“There is a huge demand for these mammals in China and southeast Asia where pangolin meat is considered a delicacy and a tonic food because of its alleged medicinal properties. Pangolin scales are used as an ingredient in traditional medicines as they are believed to cure various ailments,” the sources added.