Gujarat link in ivory smuggling

Consignment bound for carving centre in Ahmedabad: Sleuth

Guwahati, April 28: The ivory seized by the customs department at Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International airport yesterday is suspected to have been on its way to an ivory carving centre in Gujarat.

The wildlife inspector of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Abhijit Roy Chowdhury, told this correspondent today that they had information that ivory from the Northeast and north Bengal was being smuggled to Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan for being carved into showpieces, ornaments and idols.

“Subsequently, the finished products are smuggled to Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan, where such items have a huge market,” he said.

Ivory is traded in its raw form— as whole tusks and pieces. Products made from it such as bangles, bracelets, idols, carved items and chessboards are also much in demand. Powdered ivory is used in traditional medicine.

The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is a statutory body that was set up by the Centre in June 6, 2007, to protect wildlife in the country.

The ivory, weighing 3.45kg, was found by the customs sleuths in an Ahmedabad-bound speed post parcel at the LGBI Airport yesterday.

According to the records of the postal department, the name of the consignee of the parcel, booked from Silapathar in Dhemaji district, is one Mahesh T. Shah of Choksi Bazar at Visnagar in Mehsana district of Gujarat.

He also expressed concern that the smugglers of wildlife products are exploiting loopholes in the existing postal laws to smuggle animal parts and other wildlife items from the Northeast through speed post parcels.

Chowdhury said in the existing postal rules there is no provision to verify the contents of a parcel by the department officials and the smugglers are exploiting this loophole.

Last year also there were five seizures of animal parts — including skull and bones of tigers and scales of pangolin — from speed post parcels by the customs department in Guwahati.

“The postal authorities should also keep identity and address proofs of people who book the parcel, which may act as a deterrent for the smugglers,” Chowdhury said.

According to him, the postal department should either install X-ray screening machines at their booking counters or open and check the parcels manually to confirm that no objectionable item is being sent inside the parcel.

Nearly 20kg tiger skull and bones and around 555kg of pangolin scales were recovered from speed post parcels in LGBI Airport and in Guwahati railway station last year.