STF Operation Nets Five Alleged Poachers with Massive Wildlife Haul in Assam

Editor Editor
Thursday, August 24, 2023
STF Operation Nets Five Alleged Poachers with Massive Wildlife Haul in Assam
Wildlife Trafficking Alert: Ivory, Tiger Canines, and More Seized in Jakhalabandha Raid
Nagaon, Assam: In a decisive operation, the Special Task Force (STF) of Assam Police, in collaboration with the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), successfully apprehended five suspected poachers hailing from Nagaon's Jakhalabandha and Kaliabor regions. The operation, carried out based on actionable intelligence, unfolded on Tuesday and resulted in the confiscation of a substantial quantity of animal body parts.

The contraband seized during the operation included a staggering 12 ivory pieces, two tiger canines, 15 rhino hooves, one deer antler, and 1.031 kilograms of pangolin scales.

The individuals taken into custody have been identified as Gaffar Qureshi (24), Wakil Qureshi (60), Safiqul Islam (39), Ujjal Bharali (20), and Aditya Sarma (23). While Gaffar, Wakil, and Safiqul are residents of Jakhalabandha, Bharali hails from Udalguri district's Rowta, and Sarma is a resident of Guwahati. Subsequently, the accused and the confiscated items were handed over to the Jakhalabandha police.

A case has been registered against the accused under various sections of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, specifically sections 9, 39, 44, 48(A), 49(B), and 51.

Pranab Pegu, the Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) for STF, remarked, "A team of STF, in collaboration with WCCB personnel from Guwahati, conducted coordinated raids at two separate locations in Jakhalabandha and Kaliabor. During these operations, we apprehended five individuals and confiscated the illicit animal body parts. The interrogation of the accused is currently ongoing."

This incident highlights a concerning trend, as wildlife activist Mubina Akhtar pointed out. Despite claims by the Assam forest department regarding the absence of poaching, such illicit activities appear to persist within national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

Akhtar expressed her concerns, stating, "Several instances of animal body part seizures and arrests of wildlife traffickers have occurred across the state recently. If poaching truly isn't occurring, then the origin of these animal body parts remains a puzzling question."

Furthermore, Akhtar accused the Assam forest department of inadequately addressing the issue of poaching and suggested that the government had not taken sufficient action after elections.

She went on to assert, "An international wildlife trafficking racket appears to be operating within the state. There is an evident shortage of forest staff in the Manas National Park, yet the Assam government has not moved to fill these vacancies. Poaching in Assam was a significant concern during assembly and general elections, but the BJP-led government has yet to give this matter the attention it warrants."

Akhtar also speculated that the recent seizure of animal body parts in Jakhalabandha indicated potential poaching in the nearby Kaziranga National Park.

This incident follows a previous case in which four individuals involved in an inter-state wildlife smuggling network were arrested on June 29. They were found in possession of tiger bones and skin, suggesting links to poaching in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli. The investigation revealed that the contraband was intended for transportation to Meghalaya.

After thorough interrogation, a mother-son duo associated with the smuggling ring was apprehended in Assam's West Karbi Anglong district and Meghalaya's Shillong, with 7.50 grams of pangolin scales discovered in their possession.

As authorities continue their relentless efforts to combat wildlife trafficking, these incidents underscore the persistent challenges faced in the fight against poaching and the need for robust measures to protect endangered species and their habitats in Assam.