India: A couple was arrested near Pratapgarh while allegedly smuggling nearly 5 kg of elephant ivory. A country-made pistol and bullets were also seized from them. The suspects were under surveillance for more than 11 months before being caught by a joint team of UP Special Task Force, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) and Wildlife SOS, an NGO.
“Two large pieces of ivory weighing nearly 5 kg in total were recovered from Bhupendra Naraian Mishra and his wife Sadhna while they were travelling from Pratapgarh to Allahabad in an SUV,” STF additional superintendent of police Aravind Chaturvedi said, adding that while the pistol, 17 bullets and the vehicle were seized, the ivory has been sent to forest department for identification. The arrests were made at Nawabganj, between Allahabad and Pratapgarh, on Wednesday.
Chaturvedi further said that the duo revealed during interrogation that they had illegally kept an elephant in captivity and cut off its tusk. A non-bailable warrant had also been issued against Mishra last year for holding the elephant captive. The accused is also wanted in two other cases.
The elephant, named Mohan, had been sick for quite some time. “The couple had held it captive from the wild for nearly a year. We got to know of it 11 months ago. When we approached them, they refused to hand over the animal. We had been keeping an eye on them ever since,” a Wildlife SOS representative said. The state forest department has now handed over the elephant to the NGO for lifetime care.
“We are extremely grateful to the UP Police STF and WCCB for their cooperation in making this a successful operation. Interrogation of the suspect in custody will provide links to the entire matter. International and domestic trade in ivory is banned and is a highly punishable offence under Indian law,” said Wildlife SOS CEO & co-founder Kartick Satyanarayan.
Several teams from Lucknow, Allahabad and Delhi converged in Allahabad to make the operation a success, Chaturvedi added.
(Source: Times of India)