The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has seized six pieces of ivory collectively weighing 9.908 kilograms from Siliguri in West Bengal. The DRI has detected it to be a case of elephant poaching.
A report appearing in the The Indian Express quoted an official as saying, “Preliminary analysis of the seized tusk indicates the elephants were poached recently. Two persons have been nabbed in connection with the case.”
It may be recalled that the DRI had seized 5.4 kilograms of ivory in Guwahati (Assam) on May 26 last in the form of 24 pieces of ivory. This is the third seizure of elephant tusks affected by DRI this year in North Bengal and Assam region. The DRI had seized 12.410 kgs of ivory at Siliguri in February this year.
The report further quoted officials as saying that six pieces of ivory were recovered from the two persons intercepted near Tenzing Norgey bus stand in Siliguri. The accused Padum Bahadur Baidya and Kumar Rai, both residents of Salugara in Jalpaiguri, were supposed to deliver the ivory to a prospective buyer from Bengal. The duo is being grilled by the officials so that more information can be dug out from them as regards the racket they were working for. As per officials, such offences are punishable under Section 135 of the Customs Act as also under Section 51 of the Wild Life Protection Act.
Figures maintained by conservation organisations show that 225 elephants were killed by poaching, speeding trains, poisoning, electrocution, among other factors, between 2001 and 2014 in Assam.
The problem of illegal elephant capture and smuggling is a big problem in India. In November 2010, five people were arrested and three wild elephants seized as Assam Police busted an elephant-smuggling ring. Documents seized during the operation showed that the gang had smuggled at least 92 elephants from Assam to other parts of India over the past five years. The smugglers regularly captured wild elephants from the forests of Assam, trained them for a year or two, and then claimed they were the offspring of the State’s many domestic elephants.
Apart from poaching, loss of habitat by human encroachment is posing the greatest threat to elephants in Assam. Wild elephants are being surrounded and squeezed by human populations and threatened by the transformation of forests into farmland and commercial tea, coffee, oil palm, and rubber plantations. Centuries-old migration routes are disrupted by highways, canals and urban development; low valley habitats are flooded by dams; males are killed for their tusks.