Special forest vigil in 3 north districts
The rise in trafficking and illegal sale of animals, their body parts and other related items, and timber through the Siliguri corridor in north Bengal has prompted the state forest department to plan special task forces in three districts.
The forces, which would comprise experienced forest staff and officers, will dedicatedly work to control such crimes in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, and Alipurduar.
“We have decided to form three special task forces of our department for the districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, and Alipurduar. These forces will work to check wildlife trafficking,” Jyotipriya Mallick, the state forest minister, said over the phone on Tuesday.
Sources in the forest department said in recent times, a series of seizures have been made in this region. Smuggling rackets, involved in trafficking exotic animals, animal body parts and items such as snake venom and bear bile, are using north Bengal to send such illegal consignments to other parts of India and abroad.
In April, four kangaroos (including a dead one) were recovered from the outskirts of Siliguri. Again, in August, leopard skin and red panda skin were recovered before they were to be smuggled into Bhutan.
A couple of weeks back, seven primates, which are habitants of the Amazon rainforest, were recovered from a location adjacent to Siliguri.
Apart from wild animals and body parties, there had been repeated seizures of timber, particularly Burmese teak, from different locations in this region.
Mallick said that he will reach north Bengal on a threeday tour on December 26.
“I will speak with senior forest officers about the formation of these task forces. Initially, it has been decided that each team will have six members and monitored by a divisional forest officer. In due course, we will make some more such teams and increase manpower,” said the minister.
The decision has been welcomed by forest officers.
Such district-level teams will help reduce smuggling in north Bengal and aid in pursuing the investigation process in coordination with different government agencies, they said.
“North Bengal is located in a strategic location and is the gateway to the Northeast. We can’t allow our area to be used for wildlife trafficking and timber smuggling. The department should confirm that each of these teams has enough manpower and dedicated vehicles, among others,” said an official.