Mumbai: Forest officials have arrested six people for trying to sell a tiger skin trophy and two leopard skin trophies worth Rs8 million in Nagpur.
Acting on a tip-off, the forest staff raided a posh hotel at Dhantoli in the south-west part of Nagpur from where the men were arrested from one of the hotel rooms on Tuesday evening. One of the main accused, identified as Abdul Khalil, claimed to have an ownership certificate and that he was in possession of the tiger and leopard skins for about 40 years.
However, the accused were illegally transporting the animal skin trophies from Ghatladki in Amravati district to Nagpur without seeking the permission of the forest department. They have been booked under relevant sections of Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and sent to custody. If convicted they could face imprisonment up to seven years as well as a high penalty.
The raids were conducted by Divisional Forest Officer P.K. Mahajan along with other officials.
According to this Act, only those skins and trophies that were acquired or came into possession before 1972 and were bequeathed or gifted can be registered. Moreover, it is illegal to transfer the ownership or transport the trophy skins from one place to another without the permission of the wildlife authorities. Even if a dead animal is found in the wild, it cannot be skinned and none of its body parts removed.
According to Kishor Rithe, conservationist and founder of Satpuda Foundation, the forest department will have to conduct more investigations since this is not the only incident. A month back, a tiger skin trophy was seized in Akola from a man who claimed it was from his house and in another incident, a poacher was arrested in Melghat tiger reserve. “The forest department should throw more light on these incidents as it could be an indication of an illegal trade in trophies of animal skins and other body parts.”
India’s big cats are under a constant threat and poaching, particularly for tiger skins and body parts, is one big obstacle to the survival of these animals. Tiger parts are often used as good luck charms, traditional medicine and for decoration. Also, both development and encroachment have contributed to shrinking forest areas while the human-animal conflict over land has led to villagers often killing these animals that stray into their properties.