Shillong: Amid the recent busting of an exotic animal trafficking racket and in a bid to fight poaching in the state, Meghalaya forests and environment minister James PK Sangma on Monday said that the department is now mulling to arm forest guards again.

Recalling how forest guards were disarmed in Meghalaya in the past, Sangma said that militant outfits would often storm into a reserve forest and snatch away the arms given to them.

“After that, because of militancy taking place all over the state, especially in Garo Hills, it was decided to discontinue giving arms to forest guards. There would be rampant cases of weapon snatching since militancy was at its peak,” said Sangma.

Now that it’s relatively peaceful, the department is looking at arming the forest guards again so that they can do their jobs better. “This proposal is being processed right now,” added Sangma.

When asked about the recent exotic animal trafficking racket that was busted at the house of an Assam Rifles Jawan, Sangma said that the department is constantly on the watch. “We have zero tolerance for such activities,” he added.

When asked if such activities were going on due to lack of patrolling, Sangma said, “It is something that requires a lot of resources. Our area of operation is very large. When we look at the manpower that is available with us, then it is a difficult task to really go into every nook and corner of the state.”

“Nonetheless, we have an intelligence network. When we receive information, we immediately act on it,” added Sangma.

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On April 19, on receipt of a specific input, a joint team of the forest department, Meghalaya Police and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) raided the house of an Assam Rifles jawan at Khliehumstem village in Ri-Bhoi district.

The team found 44.64 kg scales of Chinese Pangolin, four live Chinese Pangolins and 43 Tokay Geckos. An electronic weighing scale used to weigh the animals, utensils used to keep the live Pangolins, seven mobile phones, Rs 25,500 in cash, one brown colour bag and three vehicles bearing registration numbers AS 025 -0127, ML-10 A -9330 and ML 10 C 4056 parked in the house were also recovered.

Apart from the Assam Rifles jawan, seven other persons, identified as Pynshngianlang Sten, Fieldstar Lyngdoh, Banker Ronghang, Darwin Phangcho, Edison Teron, Klinson Bey and Siparlin Rani were also present in the house. The team arrested all the eight persons.

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