GUWAHATI, July 22: Smugglers, forming a special type of a chain system, have scaled the heights in transiting wildlife, especially gecko, from Northeast India to Chine via Guwahati-Dimapur-Moreh-Myanmar in the recent past.
One of the reasons behind such a spurt in transit of wildlife from the region is the limited outreach of investigators beyond Guwahati and Dimapur. The chain continues to thrive in the Northeast with an outreach extending up to China via Guwahati, Dimapur, Moreh in Manipur and Myanmar.
“As and when one or two of the chain system is/are arrested, the chain gets snapped immediately leaving little scope for the investigators to reach the next in the system. This system has been successful so far because those in the chain never know each other by name or by face. They have their symbolic identities including numerals used in currency notes or otherwise. This apart, the system does not involve any hard cash. Those in the chain get money through hawala transactions also,” a source in WCCB said.
The sleuths who have been engaged on the job of checking smuggling of wildlife are of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) under the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest and the State Forest Department. With its headquarters in New Delhi, WCCB has five regional offices – one each at Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, and Jabalpur. Apart from these, the Bureau has three sub-regional offices, one each at Guwahati, Amritsar and Cochin. The Bureau also has five border units at Ramanathapuram, Gorakhpur, Motihari, Nathula in Sikkim and Moreh in Manipur. It is worthy of mention that WCCB has a sanctioned strength of only 109 with a posted strength of 78 and 31 vacancies. Its sub-regional office at Guwahati is manned by only six sleuths who have to cover the entire Northeast.
Transited the most from the Northeast is gecko which does not much market value in India. However, as soon as this reptile is taken beyond India its market value rises manifold, especially in China. The Northeast being a region with a considerable population of gecko, it has long been a destination of wildlife smugglers from abroad. There are other reasons as well for alluring wildlife smugglers to this region. “For gecko smugglers spreading all over Assam and other places in the region, Guwahati is their major hurdle to pass. The next hurdle for the chain is Dimapur, beyond which it is very difficult keep the track of the smugglers,” the source said.
The smugglers follow the proverbial advice –never put all eggs in one basket. If they are to get transit ten geckos, they divide the number of the animal among many of them so that if any of them can give sleuths the slip, they stand gainer, the source said.
The prime job of the WCCB is to share intelligence input relating to organized wildlife crimes. The Bureau has created a criminal data base of smugglers. In 2017, the Bureau included as many as 193 wildlife criminals in the data base from the Northeast.
In 2018, the WCCB detected as many as four cases of wildlife smuggling in Assam. These four include two cases of farming gecko – one in Dhemaji and the other in Nagaon. The other two cases are at Changsari and Jalukbari.