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NGOs called in to help save wildlife

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In a significant move to curb illegal trafficking in wildlife and boost conservation efforts, the Central government has involved the expertise of NGOs working in the field “for the first time”, and a city-based activist body figures among those called to “share their experience” to bolster the knowledge base.

Compassionate Crusaders Trust (CCT), a Calcutta NGO working on animal rights and wildlife protection, was invited to an awareness workshop organised by the chief commissioner of central excise and customs, Bhubaneswar, on the ‘Role of central excise & customs officers in the conservation of wildlife’. Held in the Orissa capital on Central Excise Day (February 24), the workshop was attended by more than 160 customs and central excise officers.

“It’s a significant leap forward to involve speciality groups and this effort can only improve motivation levels,” said Debasis Chakraborti, CCT founder, who did a presentation at the first-of-its-kind workshop.

Biswajeet Mohanty from Wild Life Society of Orissa was the other expert to speak at the interface, inaugurated by chief commissioner of central excise & customs, Bhubaneswar, Sujoy Roy.

“This is not a mere endeavour to pursue love for animals, but an effort to preserve our own natural resources,” Roy told the participants. Dwelling on the menace of illegal traffic in wildlife products, he stressed on the need to “control the damage at the base”, where the animals and birds are captured and killed, “and not just at international borders”.

CCT, which received the Venu Menon Award last year for its work in curtailing cattle-smuggling across the Bangladesh border, expressed concern at the increasing traffic of Gangetic turtles into Bangladesh through the state’s “porous” borders. “The turtles, sold clandestinely in markets across West Bengal, constitute only about five per cent of the total catch. The rest are smuggled into Bangladesh, where it’s not a protected species and consumption of its meat is legal,” said Chakraborti.

The CCT suggested that posters be put up at airports to alert uninformed couriers of banned items, or a mention made on the immigration/disembarkation forms that the passenger is not carrying contraband stuff.

The NGO lauded the Centre for placing wildlife crimes under the CBI, so that a centralised information bank could get inputs from all the agencies involved, and also from the public, protecting their identity.

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