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Saturday, August 15, 2020

Assam: Red kangaroo, Aldabra tortoises, other exotic wildlife rescued from smuggling racket

Two people, Narsimha Reddy and Navnath Tukaram Daigude, have been detained by the Cachar police in connection to the case. The animals, now at the Cachar Forest Department office, will be transferred to Assam State Zoo in Guwahati.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati | Updated: July 29, 2020 10:21:47 pm
Exotic spicies including red kangaroo, hyachinth macaws and rare Aldabra tortoises were found packed in plastic boxes and cartons in a vehicle in South Assam’s Cachar district

A red kangaroo, the largest of all kangaroos in Australia, and three pairs of hyachinth macaws, native to South America, are among the exotic animals rescued after forest department officials busted a smuggling racket at the Assam-Mizoram border on Tuesday night.

The rescued animals, which also included three rare Aldabra tortoises and two capuchin monkeys, were found packed in plastic boxes and cartons in a vehicle that was stopped at a checkpost in Assam’s Cachar district, authorities said.

“We are investigating the matter,” said DFO Cachar Forest Division, Sunnydeo Choudhary, “The smugglers were trying to take the animals from Mizoram to Guwahati, following which the animals would be taken elsewhere, maybe Kolkata or another big city.”

Two people, Narsimha Reddy and Navnath Tukaram Daigude, have been detained in connection to the case. The animals, now at the Cachar Forest Department office, will be transferred to Assam State Zoo in Guwahati.

“These are extremely rare and exotic animals. In fact, the Aldabra tortoise, native to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles, is one of the largest tortoises in the world,” said Choudhary, adding that both the tortoise and the macaw species were classified ‘vulnerable’ as per International Union for Conservation of Nature list.

Choudhary said that the animals are “healthy and safe”. “They have been checked by the doctors here and we have put them on a special diet,” he said, adding that the Lailapur Forest check gate, where the truck was intercepted, is a common trade transit route. “At least 200 trucks pass through every night, carrying different items. When this particular one passed, our team at the check gate detected a strange smell from the vehicle,” said Choudhary, “The driver tried to pass it off as rotten fruit. Unconvinced, our personnel searched the vehicle and found the animals.”

The official said that this was part of a larger racket and they suspect the animals were smuggled out of Myanmar. “This is no small trade but a huge racket running at an international level. While we have never intercepted a vehicle on this particular route, my understanding is that they could be testing new routes to carry out the trade,” he said. In March 2018, in what was described as the state’s biggest haul, officials seized Gaboon vipers, marmosets, giant scorpions, among other exotic animals in Jorabat. The investigation later revealed that the animals were sourced from Thailand.

Meanwhile, the Assam State Zoo in Guwahati is preparing for the arrival of the rescued animals. “We have readied the enclosures, and are going to keep them quarantined for a few days,” said Tejas Mariswamy, DFO Assam state zoo.

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