Tourists visiting Kaziranga National Park in Assam are turning out to be poachers, and are also getting involved in smuggling of high-demand wild animal parts.
Security personnel at the Guwahati airport on January 7 evening intercepted one tourist from Gurgaon while trying to smuggle something, which looked like horns of endangered wild animals.
Assam Police officials told Northeast Now that the tourist was later identified as Swapan Kumar Dutta, a 68-year old retired engineer from Gurgaon in Haryana.
“Dutta confessed that he had collected the horns from a poacher in Kaziranga National Park,” the police official said. However, in wildlife terms, deer horns are known as antlers.
Three antlers (horns) of Hog Deer were recovered from the arrested tourist, the police official said.
Dutta has reportedly confessed that he wanted to sell the antlers (horns) to a buyer in Gurgaon.
“The seizure included one pair and one single antlers (horn) of Hog Deer,” the police official informed.
Indian hog deer (Hyelaphus porcinus) is an endangered deer species, and is a Schedule I animal as per the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Poaching of Hog Deer is a criminal offence, and any person involved in poaching, or smuggling of its parts, will be imprisoned for at least seven years.
In October 2019, additional sessions judge of Tinsukia ordered seven year sentence to one Ashik Barua of Uparlaopani village, along with a fine of ?50,000 for killing a Hog Deer.
Police officials said Swapan Kumar Dutta was produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Kamrup (Metro) on January 8, and was remanded to judicial custody for 30 days.
However, officials of the Assam Forest Department are tight-lipped over the arrest of the wildlife smuggler at the airport.
Police officials said the Assam Forest Department officials are now in touch with them, and are trying to interrogate the wildlife smuggler.
“The forest department officials wanted to know the exact source of procurement of the horns,” the police official said.
Assam government has been promoting Kaziranga National Park, an UNESCO Wolrd Heritage site and the world’s largest habitat for one-horned rhinos as a tourist destination.
But, if tourists start getting involved in poaching or wildlife smuggling, the tourism promotion is going to be catastrophic for Assam.