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Comment on YouTube video uncovers wildlife smuggling racket in Meghalaya

A WTI member tracked the person on other social media platforms, got in touch with him and posed as customer to buy the animal parts
Last Updated : 25 May 2021, 15:03 IST
Last Updated : 25 May 2021, 15:03 IST
Last Updated : 25 May 2021, 15:03 IST
Last Updated : 25 May 2021, 15:03 IST

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A subtle comment on a YouTube video helped wildlife crime control sleuths recently uncover a racket which switched over to digital space for smuggling wild animal parts from the Northeast, following the restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

An alert team member of Wildlife Crime Control division of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) tracked the person who commented on the video showing some wild animal parts. This finally led to seizure of four live Chinese Pangolins, 44.28-kgs of pangolin scales and 43 Tokay Geckos in Meghalaya capital Shillong last month.

A total of 10 persons have been arrested and another pair of elephant tusks were recovered in a related operation at Umling in Meghalaya's Ri Bhoi district.

The WTI member tracked the person on other social media platforms, got in touch with him and posed as customer to buy the animal parts.

Officials of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Meghalaya forest department and police were informed about the racket before the joint operation was carried out on April 19.

"The suspects met our team of covert buyers in secret locations, took them to inspect the ‘goods’ in remotely located houses away from the city (Shillong). The gang was well organised and connected to suspects in similar trade earlier. The unexpected lockdown last year had disrupted their buyer network and were trying for new trade routes. So they had embarked on online messaging to connect with potential buyers," WTI officials told DH.

The WTI said the pandemic that restricted physical movement and meeting of people further facilitated the shift of the illegal wildlife trade to digital platforms. "Social media platforms are increasingly being used by such illegal traders as it enables buyers and sellers to connect with each other directly beyond the restrictions of geo-locations. The communication and transactions over multiple digital platforms makes it almost impossible for enforcement agencies to track their movements and activity," said Jose Louies, head of WTI's enforcement division.

Chinese pangolin, their scales and the Tokay Gecko are reportedly used in preparation of traditional medicines in China, Vietnam and some other South East Asian nations. The Northeastern states that shares border with Myanmar, China, Bangladesh and Bhutan are used as transit route to smuggle the wild animal parts, mainly through the Indo-Myanmar borders in Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

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Published 25 May 2021, 15:03 IST

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