In an operation that spanned over several weeks, the Wildlife S.O.S. – Wildlife Crime Enforcement Unit in Chattisgarh (Central India) worked closely with the Crime Branch of the Chattisgarh Police to arrest a wildlife smuggler and confiscate a leopard skin.
As India geared up for the 26th January Republic Day celebrations, the Wildlife SOS team was gearing up for an operation. The team was hot on the trail of a wildlife poacher cum trader in Sarguja area of North Chattisgarh. He was trying to sell leopard skins to middlemen. A decoy was sent in to establish contact with the trader and he was put on surveillance. Immediately after receiving this information the Wildlife S.O.S team working closely with the Crime Branch of Bilaspur Police drew up a plan to nab the trader.
The decoy customer (an undercover police officer) from the Crime Branch of Bilaspur established contact with the trader expressing interest in the contraband. Understandably it took a long time and several meetings to convince the trader to show him the goods. The trader fixed 26th of January as the date for the deal as he cleverly guessed that the police and law enforcement agencies would be busy on this day attending to public celebrations and security duties. But when the team reached the appointed place there was no body present and after a prolonged wait the team left the place disappointed.
The decoy’s phone rang early in the morning on 6th February 2008. It was the wildlife smuggler. He was at the Bilaspur Bus stand and would wait for for the next one hour and if the “customer” was still interested in buying the contraband, he should come to the place within an hour with the cash. It took a few minutes for the Wildlife S.O.S team and the Bilaspur Crime Branch team to get into combat gear. The decoy went to the bus stand and as the unsuspecting trader met him, he was arrested and a leopard skin measuring 7.6 feet in length seized from his possession.
Geeta Seshamani, co founder of Wildlife S.O.S said “Sometimes lady luck smiles and makes it possible to apprehend such criminals. This man has been eluding us and the authorities for quite some time. He is currently in the custody of enforcement agencies who are interrogating him. We hope to make more arrests soon with his co operation as he seems to have been operating for a while in these areas, she added.
S.P.Bilaspur, Mr Vivekanad commented, Bilaspur is surrounded by forests of the Achanakmar Sanctuary and we get information on poaching and wildlife trade and other offences related to wildlife and forests. We are committed to enforcement and working against all crime. So we are bound to do our duty to wildlife too. We are also grateful for the dedication shown and help given by the Wildlife SOS team.
Meetu Gupta enforcement officer, Wildlife SOS said “We are sure the man we have arrested has more leads. Regretfully he comes from a disturbed part of the state where militancy unrest exists. He has been taking advantage of this to carry out his nefarious activities. We are confident that with cooperation between NGOS and enforcement agencies, wildlife trade in the area can be surely curtailed. We are extremely grateful to ¨Mr Vivekananda (S.P. Bilaspur), Mr Prabhakar (S.I.Crime branch), Mr Jaiswal (ASI Crime Branch), and the team of Mr Hemant, Mr Ashok and Mr Balbir for their continuing dedication and commitment to the cause of wildlife enforcement.”