Two Bhutanese nationals have been arrested along with a 14-feet-long skin and bones of a Royal Bengal Tiger from Manas Tiger Reserve at Hasimara in West Bengal.
The Special Task Force (STF), led by Sanjay Dutta, range officer of Belakoba forest range, arrested the two smugglers including a retired Royal Bhutan Army man on Wednesday evening.
The recovered skin has been identified as that of a tiger from Panbari Range of the Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam.
M Firoz Ahmed, a wildlife biologist working in Northeast, tweeted: “The skin of a tiger from Panbari range of Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam is identified by Park Authority. @aaranyak is assisting the authority in all possible manner. People involved in killing are already arrested by the agency.”
As per reports, on a tip-off, an STF team launched an operation and started tracking the movement of a group of suspected wildlife smugglers.
Also read: Tiger: Not really out of danger
The suspected wildlife smugglers including some women came from Phuntsholing in Bhutan towards Hasimara to smuggle the wildlife articles to Kathmandu.
The STF team arrested two of the Bhutanese nationals as they were about to board a vehicle.
The arrested smugglers have been identified as Yongba, a retired Bhutanese army man and Namgay Wangdi, both of whom are residents of Pemagatshel.
Also read: Tiger population in Assam increases: Report
It has been reported that the smugglers were planning to smuggle the tiger hide, skull and bones at Rs 32 lakh.
A media report quoted Sanjay Dutta, who headed the STF, as saying: “We arrested two Bhutanese citizens when they were about to board a vehicle, some of their women companions managed to flee.”
“Preliminary investigations have revealed that they were staying in a hotel.”
Dutta said the animal appears to be a full-grown Royal Bengal Tiger and the skin had two bullet marks.
Forest official Dutta said, “The skull of the tiger and 100 pieces of bones were also recovered.”
While sharing a picture of the tiger skin being displayed by forest personnel, on his Twitter handle, IFS officer Ramesh Pandey said the seizure was made by “Belacoba forest range in Jalpaiguri”.
“May be a blessing in disguise but holding skin like this can help in identifying the source of tiger poached. Stripes can be matched with repository available,” he added.
Talking to Northeast Now, environmentalist Mubina Akhtar said, “The recovery of the skin and bones of a tiger has again established our claim that tigers are not safe even in tiger reserves. Arrest of Bhutanese nationals has also exposed how vulnerable the tigers even in the Royal Manas National Park.”