Mizoram may have turned into a major transit point for exotic animal smuggling after 80 such animals were found while being transported from Myanmar into the country on Thursday.
Assam Rifles troops along with customs officials posted around the “Friendship Bridge” over river Tyao between India and Myanmar at Champhai district rescued 19 leopard tortoises, 38 red-footed tortoises; 17 yellow, orange and green iguanas; three bearded dragon, three albino iguana, exotic seeds and a large quantity of fertilizer.
A man has also been arrested. “The man and the seized illegal consignment were handed over to the customs department, Zokhawthar, for further legal proceedings. The market value of the animals will be informed by the customs department in consultation with zoo range officers at Aizwal,” a forest official said.
Assam forest officials last July rescued a vehicle carrying exotic animals – a red kangaroo, three pairs of hyacinth macaws, a pair of capuchin monkeys and three aldabra tortoises – to Telangana from Mizoram at Lailapur, inter-state borders in southern Assam’s Cachar district.
According to forest officials, smuggling of exotic animals into India via Mizoram is a comparatively new route.
“Often, smugglers change or test new routes when the old routes get identified. They usually took the route via Siliguri in West Bengal from Bangladesh and Moreh in Manipur from Myanmar, which have now almost got jammed. But it is possible there is a growing market in India of exotic animals,” a forest official said.
Transportation and possession of exotic animals – those that are not habitat of the Indian subcontinent – or rare animals is an offence under the Protection of Wildlife Act, 1972.
In its global report on the illegal wildlife trade, released a week ago, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) described wildlife trafficking as a “global threat”, and a business worth $23 billion a year.