Chikkamagaluru (Karnataka), (Samajweekly) The Karnataka Forest Department has busted a pangolin trading racket in the state’s Chikkamagaluru district, and seized scales of the mammal which are much in demand in traditional Chinese medicine, officials said on Thursday. 10 people have been arrested so far.
“A 10-member pangolin trading gang was arrested on Tuesday. Right now we are hunting for the gang’s 11th member, Ramesh, in Bengaluru,” Chikkamagaluru’s Deputy Conservator of Forests, N.H. Jagannatha, told IANS.
The 10 accused have been arrested under various sections of the Wildlife Protection Act and scales of three pangolins and six cell phones have been seized from them.
The arrested were identified as Abdul Rehman from Uppalli in Chikkamagaluru town, Naved Basha from Kalaspura, Dharmesha and Mallesha from Hosambala, Mahendra from Nagarahalli, Srinivasa and Pradeep from Sakrepatna, and Vishwanath, Sundaresh,and Mohan Kumar from Javagal.
Ramesh, who is being sought, was expected to deliver a consignment of pangolin scales to unknown persons in Bengaluru, Jagannatha said, adding that this could change between some more hands within the city and beyond as well.
“Developments in Bengaluru will prove to be of most crucial nature in this case,” he said.
Forest officials are tracking if the consignment is destined for Bengluru or overseas.
According to officials, the racket came to light with the arrest of just one person, and they managed to connect the dots and nab all the other nine as well and start the hunt for the 11th man.
“We could not track Ramesh initially because of some gaps. We also do not have police like powers,” Jagannatha said.
To reinforce their search efforts, the Forest Department sought the local police’s help to track and trace phone calls between the poachers.
“I have requested Superintendent of Police, Hakay Akshay Machindra, and he assured his help. Still we need time to analyse the phone records and glean details such as from where the demand arose and who gave the money,” said Jagannatha.
He said that the accused managed to get three pangolins from Muthodi forest area, Belur range and Kalasapura.
Jagannatha said the arrested persons themselves would have received the animals from some other unknown persons.
According to him, people buying the animals may eat their meat while some use its scales for treatment of arthritis, and they also much sought after in traditional Chinese medicine.
“Usually, pangolin scales are valued at Rs 1 to 1.5 lakh in the international market, but it fluctuates… sometimes it may be more or sometimes, it may be less,” he said.