India

Madhya Pradesh STF arrests kingpin of Indo-China Pangolin smuggling module

Photo: David Brossard
Pangolin | Photo: David Brossard

In a major breakthrough Madhya Pradesh forest’s special task force (STF) have arrested alleged kingpin of Indo-China Pangolin smuggling network from Assam. This is the 80th arrest in the country’s biggest ever poaching network cracked by the STF.

A team has been dispatched to Delhi to meet Interpol officials for further probe into overseas operations. Accused Amir Hussain Laskar, has been arrested on a specific input, said sources. He was produced before a special court in Balaghat which remanded him to five days police custody. He is middleman between Indian and Chinese wildlife traders, said an STF official privy of information.

“Laskar was working for an established network of international poachers. His arrest is a big success,” he said. STF arrested 80 people linked to the pangolin smuggling network from nine states across India so far.

Laskar is part of a global racket involved in smuggling Indian pangolins to China and Vietnam, where its blood, meat and scales are sold to traditional medical practitioners at a premium. This ant-eating mammal with armour of keratin scales has been listed under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as an endangered species. Experts said, “If poaching continues, the pangolin could go extinct.”

Accused (name kept confidential pending investigation) masterminded the killing of hundreds of pangolins and smuggled them to south Asian countries from Madhya Pradesh and other parts of country, said an officer. Nine of his local conduits were arrested in state’s Chhindwara district in September 2014. At least 47 kg pangolin scales known as ‘chuan shan jia’ in Chinese were seized.

Officer said there are four layers in the global network and the Kolkata businessman is part of the second one. Passport and other documents reveal frequent visits to China. Officials claim there are two smuggling routes to China — Nepal through north Bengal, Manipur and Myanmar.

Local poachers are paid Rs 6000 for scales of one pangolin, which weighs around 1.3 to 2 kg. It is resold for Rs 15,000 to middlemen and Rs 30,000 to those who export illegally. The international value is 30 times more than what is paid to poachers.

Officials claim in traditional Chinese medicine, roasted pangolin scales are used for detoxification of blood, draining pus, curing palsy and stimulating lactation. Using its blood to treat asthma, cancer and reproductive problems is also a common practice in China.

Pangolins are found mostly in south-eastern parts of Madhya Pradesh, especially Pachmarhi area of Hoshangabad, Chhindwara, Balaghat and Seoni districts of the state. Madhya Pradesh which is largely focused on tiger conservation does not have any project to protect this endangered mammal.

Original Story: The Times of India | Photo: David Brossard, Flickr