The arrests and seizure once again establish the fact that Bengal is one of the key transit hubs of wildlife smuggling.
"On November 21, the BSF officials seized 10 tokay geckos -which has high demand in the international markets - from Haridaspur on Bangaon border and arrested two persons - Md Roken and Md Soriful. These reptiles are sold for approximately Rs 20 lakh each in the international market," said inspector general of BSF's south Bengal frontier, R K Mishra. The 40th battalion of BSF also seized several star tortoises worth more than Rs 4 crore four crore
from the border area a month back. Last week, Bidhanagar police arrested three persons and seized 70 sacks of turtles and star tortoises from a truck coming from Uttar Pradesh.
Not only geckos, Indian flapshell turtles (Lissemys Punctata) are also being smuggled to West Bengal from Uttar Pradesh before being sent to international markets. "In the last couple of years nearly 5000 turtles are smuggled to West Bengal from Uttar Pradesh. The smuggling racket surfaced when RPF, acting on a tip off, arrested seven women from West Bengal from Delhi-Howrah bound Janata express at Kanpur Central station and seized 400 live turtles.
"The most illegally traded thing after drugs and arms is wildlife and this is not a new thing in Uttar Pradesh. A huge number of turtles are smuggled to West Bengal every year. Women are involved in smuggling because they are not suspected generally. The fresh water turtles are used as food and Bengal has huge demand for it. They are also smuggled across the border. There is another variety -star tortoises which is of high demand. They are used as pets," said principal chief conservator of forest of Uttar Pradesh, Rupak Dey.
"This is not a new thing they are doing this for the last few years. The turtles are mostly smuggled from areas like Etawah, Oriah, Manpura, Sikurabad, Farukabad and Jaunpur districts of UP. People particularly women from South and North 24 Parganas smuggle these rare variety. They but these at 2000 rupees per kilogram and sell it at 10000 rupees per kilogram. These turtles are of huge demand in Thailand and Malaysia where it is used in soups. They are even sold at one lakh rupees per kilogram," Rajesh Cahuhan- a wildlife conservator from Uttar Pradesh told TOI.
Speaking to TOI, a senior forest official said, "West Bengal is a transit route an enroute for illegal wildlife trade because the state has a huge porous border and wildlife can be smuggled beyond the border to countries like Bangladesh, Thailand, Southern Eastern, China and gulf. In the last one month, we have made raids at 29 places and arrested more than 45 people for smuggling rare and endangered species."
"The seizure includes different kinds of birds like Hill Maina, Taiko Geckos, turtles and meat and skin of different animals like tiger, bison and buffalo," the official said. He added that different animals have demand in different counties like gecko is very expensive in china because it is used for preparing the medicines of HIV and Cancer whereas turtles are needed to prepare a special kind of soup in Malaysia and Thailand. "The Himalayan Maina is considered to be pious and its blood is used for different religious purposes in Gulf countries," the official said.