Bengaluru: Pangolins are also called “scaly anteaters” and are covered with large scales. This endangered species is often referred to as “the most trafficked mammal you’ve never heard of.” About the size of a house cat, the pangolins are under threat due to their scales, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine..
In India, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) is about to crack an international trade of pangolin scales from the forests of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The WCCB is now investigating a case from Tamil Nadu where 11 persons, including the kingpin in pangolin poaching and smuggling, Muniyandi from Gopichettipalyam village, were nabbed by Tamil Nadu forest officials. The accused were involved in poaching and extracting scales from these shy creatures from the forests of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
In 2010, the forest officials in Karnataka had arrested two persons and recovered pangolin scales from them in a raid outside BRT Tiger Reserve in Chamarajnagar district. During the investigations it was revealed that the main accused was Muniyandi, who is running a similar racket from across the border. The conservationists are now demanding that the Karnataka forest department take custody of Muniyandi for further investigations.
Following the case, the officials from the WCCB are now going to visit Burma as the main accused Muniyandi had some criminal charges against him in Burma when he was living there. “Muniyandi is one of the three kingpins of pangolin scale smuggling in India. Muniyandi offers about `4,000-5,000 to local tribesmen who smoke out the burrows of pangolins. They kill them and extract the scales. In the latest case where we arrested 11 accused, we recovered about 4 kilos of scales,” said an official from the WCCB.
“It’s been found that the main accused has connections with smugglers and wildlife sellers in Assam and northern parts of West Bengal. We are not sure whether the demand is from China, Nepal or Bangladesh. The scales of pangolins are also used to make ornamental items. We must bust this trade, more so because there has been a rise in the cases of pangolin hunting and smuggling of late,” the official summed up.
Mr Raj Kumar, Deputy Conservator of Forests of Satyamangala Tiger Reserve, said that the case is currently being handled by the WCCB who are doing all they can to bust the network. “We are trying to take some of the tribals into confidence so that the poaching of wildlife is regulated around the Satyamangala forests. There are a few bad elephants who will be dealt with strictly. Presently we are trying to zero in on those locals who have helped Muniyandi and his team to locate and hunt down the pangolins,” the officer wound up.