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Kolkata/Guwahati: After the rescue of kangaroos and chimpanzees from West Bengal and Assam this month, the Forest Departments of the two states have stepped up vigilance to prevent trafficking of rare species of animals.

Five chimpanzees were seized from a vehicle in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district on April 12 while three kangaroos were rescued after they were found wandering in a forest range in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district early this month.

“Three animals (kangaroos) were rescued from Baikanthapur forest range and one marsupial was found in dead condition . One of the three animals succumbed to its injuries days later. The two animals are now under the observation of vets at Bengal Safari Park in Siliguri, Chief Wildlife Warden Debal Roy said.

The Forest Department has put the intelligence network on overdrive to prevent recurrence of trafficking of exotic species of animals, including kangaroos, the official told PTI.

This was the first time kangaroos were rescued while being trafficked through the region and the department is in touch with the intelligence regularly and the police are trying to bust the network, Roy said.

The marsupials, native to Australia, are not found in the wild in India.

Another forest official said the kangaroos were believed to have been transhipped from the Myanmar side via north-east and the department laid a trap at Gajoldoba forest under the Baikunthapur Forest Division to intercept a vehicle carrying the animals.

Apart from boosting the network to gather more information from local villagers, the number of trained dogs was increased and vigilance groups comprising locals and forest personnel were monitoring movement of any suspicious vehicles and persons in the area around Baikanthapur forest range, Roy said.

Two suspected traffickers have been arrested in connection with the seizure of the chimpanzees from a vehicle in Dilai Tiniali area near the Assam-Nagaland border.

The chimpanzees were handed them over to officials of the forest department of Manja range on Wednesday.

During interrogation, the two suspected traffickers said they hail from Thoubal district of Manipur.

An Assam forest official said wildlife trafficking is of major concern in the North East as endangered and rare animals are targeted by poachers.

“Earlier, meat and body parts of animals like rhinoceros, elephant and tigers were poached and its parts trafficked to several countries of North and South East Asia. But traffickers have now shifted their attention to other rare animals, including gecko, pangolin and more recently the kangaroo and chimpanzees with North East India serving as a transit route for the trafficking of the animals,” the official said.

West Bengal Forest minister Jyotipriyo Mallick told PTI, the surveillance network against trafficking of animals and forest produce has been intensified for the past eight-nine months

More than 2,300 rare species of turtles have been seized in recent times by forest personnel in the state, the minister said.

Our men have also rescued pangolins, macaws and other exotic birds among others and recovered body parts of certain animals.

“On an average, six-seven raids are undertaken by our teams on a day to stop trafficking and poaching in different forest areas of the state, in both south and north Bengal,” he said.

Pointing out that interrogation of the convicted persons will help unearth the racket, the minister said, we are ensuring those arrested in connection with these acts of trafficking and poaching of animal parts face conviction.”

The department has also seized teakwood and sandalwood and put the seized produce for e-auction, Mallick said.

Our department has given Rs 125 crore to the state exchequer after selling off the wood,” he said.

About the kangaroos, Mallick said it was unfortunate that one of the kangaroos could not be saved.

The two others are now recovering well and adapting to cooler climes in Siliguri. They will later be taken to zoo, preferably in hill area, the forest minister said.

The Assam forest official said a concerted effort is being made with the neighbouring state governments, including West Bengal, security agencies, forest departments and NGOs working in the biodiversity and environment area for acting in a coordinated manner.

The recent seizure of rare animals in Assam indicate that security agencies are alert, a police officer added.

Also Read: Assam: Five chimpanzees rescued from Karbi Anglong; 2 arrested

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