Pangolin scales seized
Calcutta, Nov. 27: Large consignments of pangolin scales worth more than Rs 400 crore have been seized from Calcutta airport this week with officials saying they were being smuggled to China.
The consignments, hidden in bags labelled “ayurvedic medicine”, were bound for Imphal, from where they would have been taken to China via Myanmar, officials of the directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) said.
Yesterday, 511kg of pangolin scales being carried in 12 bags were confiscated at the cargo terminal of Calcutta airport.
On November 21, another 135kg in five bags had been seized from the airport.
The consignments had been brought to Calcutta on a private airline from Chennai, the officials said.
Since these were registered cargo, no passenger was accompanying the bags.
“The consignments are worth more than Rs 400 crore and were headed for China,” said Sesha Giri Rao, additional director-general, DRI, Calcutta. “From Imphal, the scales were supposed to be smuggled to China through Myanmar,” he said.
Rao said that in China, ayurvedic medicines were prepared from pangolin scales.
“The scales are in huge demand in that country,” he added.
Rao said wildlife crime control bureau experts had collected samples of the scales and would submit those to the Geological Survey of India for examination.
“Pangolins are protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, along with tigers, leopards, elephants and king cobras,” said V.K. Yadav, special chief conservator of forests, West Bengal.
Forest department officials said two types of pangolins were found in India.
The Chinese pangolins (Manis pentadactyla) are mainly found in the Northeast while Indian pangolins (Manis crassicaudata) are found in many other parts of the country, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The officials said the seized scales were of Indian pangolins.
Rao said his department kept regular surveillance on Northeast-bound flights to stop animal skins from being smuggled out of India.
Sources said the pangolin skin and other banned wildlife products were mainly smuggled to Southeast Asia through the Northeast.
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