10 smugglers arrested

India: 10 wildlife smugglers were arrested with Kendu leaves worth ₹50 lakhs and 13 vehicles used in the illegal trade were seized during Saturday raids in Kaimur wildlife sanctuary by forest department and state police officials.

The raids were conducted on a tip off that interstate smugglers had collected huge quantity of Kendu leaves, illegally plucked from the wildlife sanctuary in Chainpur forest range. The operation was jointly monitored by divisional forest officer (DFO) Vikas Ahlawat and superintendent of police (SP) Rakesh Kumar, officials said on Monday.

The DFO and SP formed teams of forest and police officials from Bhagwanpur and Chainpur police stations under additional superintendent of police (SP) Nitin Kumar and range officer Arun Prasad. The teams raided over six hilly locations and seized huge quantities of Kendu leaves worth ₹50 lakhs, 11 pickup vans, two bikes and arrested 10 smugglers, while some others managed to flee, officials said.

A case under several sections of Indian Forest Act and Wildlife Protection Act was lodged and the arrested smugglers were being interrogated for information on more people in the smuggling chain of the banned forest produce.

Confiscation proceedings will be initiated for seized Kendu leaves and vehicles, DFO Ahlawat said, adding the raids against the forest mafia will continue.

Kaimur forests, spread over 1,134 square km area including 986 square km of wildlife sanctuary, are the biggest in Bihar. It has 34% green cover, highest in the state. But the wildlife smugglers have ruined the forests once known for their rich flora and fauna.

(Source: The Hindustan Times)