| The arrested smugglers at Dispur police station on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos |
Jan. 24: Police here rescued two reptiles from a guesthouse in Mathura Nagar and arrested eight persons, including five from Mizoram, last night.
The police rescued the tokay gecko, an Asian lizard, along with a tortoise after receiving specific information that some persons from Mizoram had entered the city with some animals with the intention of smuggling these out of the region.
“Based on the information, we checked the guesthouse and found the animals concealed in two packets. We arrested eight persons, including the owner of the guest house, as transporting wildlife species without permission is illegal under the Wildlife Protection Act,” a source at Dispur police station said.
Of the eight persons, five are residents of Mizoram, two are from Cachar and Karimganj districts of Barak Valley and the other, a woman, is the owner of the guest house.
The police suspect that they were carrying the reptiles from Mizoram and were planning to hand them over to smugglers here.
A source said the persons knew how to transport the animals and added that both reptiles were safe and sound, as they were kept protected using cotton wads.
Wildlife NGOs and police had earlier found people in Manipur hunting the tokay gecko as an international syndicate was reportedly buying those species at attractive prices.
“We have information that lizards are used for medicinal purposes and are sold for lakhs of rupees. We will try to find out who they were delivering the animals to,” a source said.
The arrested person has been identified as Khentanga, 47, of Lunglei in Mizoram, R. Biakachhunga, 42, of Saiha village, Paona, 52, of Chanmari in Aizawl, Dawngliana, 38, (guesthouse owner), Zouingliana, 30, of Kulikawn village, Rawsangzela, 31, of Tlanguain village, Jacob Chorei, 30, of Jacob Nagar, Karimganj, and Zuali Mizo, 60 of Lakhipur, Cachar district.
R. Biakachhunga, however, told The Telegraph that he was innocent while claiming that he was a garments trader. “I bring garments from Calcutta and sell them in Mizoram. I had reached Guwahati on January 18 and was staying at the guesthouse, as I am ill. Last evening, the police came and arrested me. I do not know about the animals,” he said.
The police have registered a case 163/13 and the accused has been booked under relevant sections of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
A tokay gecko is a harmless lizard found in the Northeast, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sout-heast Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Western Guinea. In the Northeast, it is mostly found in Manipur, Mizoram and Assam’s Cachar district.
Though it is not listed as an endangered species in Schedule I to IV of the international red data book, it has become a threatened species in some places because of indiscriminate hunting.
In August last year, the police in Manipur rescued eight tokay geckos from Bishnupur and Thoubal district villagers, who had collected them to sell to an “international syndicate”.