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regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 July 2024

Darjeeling: Manipur man arrested at Naxalbari while trying to smuggle rhino horn

Foresters said that the arrested person, identified as Ajit Singh, was trying to smuggle the horn to Nepal and is suspected to be member of a racket involved in smuggling of wild animal parts

Our Correspondent Siliguri Published 24.06.24, 06:51 AM
Foresters of Tukriajhar range of Kurseong forest division with Ajit Singh (holding the rhino horn)

Foresters of Tukriajhar range of Kurseong forest division with Ajit Singh (holding the rhino horn)

A Manipur resident was arrested at Naxalbari in Darjeeling district on Saturday evening after the horn of a one-horn rhino was seized from his possession.

Foresters said that the arrested person, identified as Ajit Singh, was trying to smuggle the horn to Nepal and is suspected to be member of a racket involved in smuggling of wild animal parts.

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Devesh Pandey, the divisional forest officer of Kurseong, said they received a tip-off from the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) that a person was trying to smuggle a rhino horn to Nepal through the international border.

“Based on the information, we deployed a team from Tukuriajhar forest range at Hatighisa area of Naxalbari. In the evening, as Ajit reached the spot, we nabbed him. The rhino horn was found in his possession,” said Pandey.

The DFO infomed that the horn was around eight inches long and weighs around 1.25 kilos.

Preliminary probe suggests that Ajit was trying to smuggle the wildlife part to Nepal and from there, it was supposed to be sent to China. In China, rhino horn has huge demand as it is used in traditional medicines.

In recent years, this is the first such incident when a rhino horn has been seized near the India-Nepal border.

“We are trying to find out how Ajit managed to get the rhino horn and how he contacted potential buyers. He seems to be associated with a racket that is involved in smuggling of wild animal parts,” said a forester.

In India, Assam and Bengal are known to be habitats of one-horned rhinos in India. The species has been marked as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as there are only 2,700 rhinos which are there in the wild.

A few years back, incidents of rhino poaching were reported in Jaldapara and Gorumara, the two national parks in north Bengal which are habitats of the species.

The foresters said they were trying to find out whether the rhino — the horn of which was seized from Ajit — was poached in Bengal or Assam.

“We are also sending its samples to the Zoological Survey of India in Calcutta and to the Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun to confirm that the seized item is original and not fake,” said a forester.

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