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Jumbo smuggling racket busted in Assam
Published on 2 Nov. 2010 12:47 AM IST
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It’s ‘heritage’ plunder of jumbo proportions. Wild elephants are being trapped, whipped to submission, sedated and then smuggled out of Assam.
The administration had no clue to this racket until an NGO tipped them off about a consignment of nine elephants, including a mother and a calf, heading out of Kokrajhar two days ago, reports Times News Network.
According to sources, this was just the one consignment detected. Many more have slipped past border check-gates to Bengal and Bihar and even crossed the international border into Myanmar.
With the Sonepur fair in Bihar (famed for elephant trade) approaching, wildlife crime experts fear the worst for the gentle jumbos of Assam. The nine elephants are said to have been brought from Upper Assam to Kokrajhar in Lower Assam. Police intercepted the trucks at Sreerampur on the Assam-Bengal border. A Kokrajhar-based NGO, Green Heart Nature Club, filed a complaint with police, leading to the arrest of four persons, among them West Bengal-based businessman Rabindra Singh and Dayaram Doloi of Assam’s Golaghat district.
If these jumbos had been smuggled out, each would have been sold for at least `40 lakh.
“These arrests have exposed the thriving inter-state racket in elephant smuggling. Our volunteers prevented an elephant calf from being traded at Bokakhat area of Golaghat district on Saturday,” said People for Animals (PFA) chairperson Sangeeta Goswami who fears more than 90 elephants have been smuggled out of Assam since 2002.
The jumbo smuggling racket works much the same way as human trafficking rackets. Forged paperwork and false identities are created to pass off wild elephants as captivated, domesticated ones. Even microchips, a must for domestic elephants, are ‘arranged’.
Officials involved in tackling wildlife crime say several hard-core elephant traders from Bihar have already fanned out in various districts of upper Assam, especially those sharing border with Arunachal Pradesh, to procure elephants for the Sonepur fair.
Elephant, being a Schedule-I species under Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Act 1972, cannot be traded, but it can be moved from one state to another with permission from the chief wildlife warden. The racket exploits the law to carry out this nefarious trade. Very often, it involves putting the elephants through a brutal regimen to make them submissive. These elephants are then brought to Assam and given a fresh ‘identity’ from a dead captive elephant. Even micro-chips are managed for the captured elephants.
“This is why we demand a complete ban on movement of elephants from Assam or the northeast to any other part of the country. Once they are taken out, legally or illegally, the elephants are often subjected to great hardship. Elephants are majestic elephants and should be treated as such,” elephant expert Kushal Kumar Sarma said.
According to sources, Rajasthan, Bihar, Delhi and some southern states procured most of the captive elephants of Assam.
In September, villagers in Jairampur in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh prevented two elephants from being smuggled to Myanm-ar. Two mahouts were arrested. Police suspected the involvement of militant outfit NSCN (K) in smuggling elephants across the international border.

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