India: Pune City Police is probing a ‘pangolin smuggling racket’ after a pangolin was seized from a car on Tuesday, days after pangolin scales were seized in another operation in the city. Five suspects, who have been arrested in connection with the two incidents, also known as scaly anteater, is an insectivorous mammal which has hard scales of keratin on its body. Two of the eight subspecies of the animal are found in India. The animal has been given a protected status, as per the Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act in the country. It is found in different types of forests and is known to be solitary and nocturnal in its behaviour.
Last week, a team from the Bharti Vidyapeeth police station had arrested 27-year-old Vinayak Pauskar, who had allegedly come to Katraj area in Pune to sell a packet of pangolin scales. Police had recovered over 4.5 kg of pangolin scales. Subsequently, police had arrested one Ganpati Sutar (50), sarpanch of a village in Kolhapur district, from whom Pauskar had allegedly procured the contraband animal parts.
The police team is currently searching for two more suspects in the case.
While investigating the case, police also received information about some persons coming to Pune to sell a live pangolin. Based on the tip-off, a trap was laid on Tuesday and three persons were arrested. During their search, police personnel found the pangolin in a gunny bag inside the vehicle. The arrested accused have been identified as Yogesh Bondekar (24), Vitthal Dhagare (30) and Arun Kusalkar (25). Two of their accomplices managed to give police the slip at the time of the search. The pangolin was handed over to the forest department.
Assistant Inspector Shrishail Chiwadshetti, who is probing the case, said, “Our probe has revealed that the three suspects had caught the pangolin from a forest area near Khandala in Satara district. They brought it to Pune for sale…. We have reasons to believe that the animal would have been smuggled out of India and sold in international market for its illegal use in some remedies. We are probing the identity of the potential buyer…”
A police officer, who is part of the probe, said, “While pangolin scales are mainly used in traditional Oriental remedies, it is also consumed for meat or used to make luxury items. While there have been cases of the animal being kept in houses in India, as there is a superstition that it brings wealth, we don’t think this animal was being smuggled for that. Pangolin is one of most trafficked animals, and we suspect there might be an active racket that catches them from forests and sells them to middlemen in cities. Cases of pangolin seizures have been reported from Raigad, Thane and Chandrapur.”
(Source: The Indian Express)