THE news was amazing and little exciting as the Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh on June 23 directed a Central Bureau of Investigation to probe into the seizure of huge amount of wildlife parts (mostly tigers) in Guwahati airport. The customs officials at Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport had seized once again a consignment of 20 kg tiger parts and pangolin scales worth Rs five crore on June 20, which tempted the Central Minister to go for an enquiry.
The action was immediately appreciated by various environment NGOs and other organisations. Two, NGOs namely Nature’s Beckon and Early Birds had issued press statements appreciating the minister’s decision, but maintained their demand that the probe should comprise all wildlife including one-horned rhinos.
The media has welcomed the initiative of the Central Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh. The Sentinel, a leading English daily of Northeast India, said in an editorial, “We welcome the decision of Union Forest and Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh in favour of a CBI investigation into the recent seizure of 20-kg tiger bones and pangolin shells worth Rs five crore by customs officials at the Guwahati airport –.”
Earlier the journalist forum organised a Citizen’s Meet at Guwahati Press Club on June 19, where a number of environment NGOs, journalist organisations and conscious individuals were present.
The State forest department had earlier made a historic decision to burn all the horns under its possession to send out a message that the horns of pre-historic mammals contain no medicinal or aphrodisiac values for which the rhinos are primarily poached.
The rhino horn is prized as an aphrodisiac, selling for thousands of dollars per kilogram. A single horn can fetch as much as $40,000. The heavy animal enjoys great sexual power, as its mating time is not less than 45 minutes (quite higher than any other animal).
The horns are also believed to have medicinal values. The traditional Chinese medicine demands rhino horns, which is believed to cure fever and stomach ailments fast. China, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and the Middle East are known to be huge markets for illegal trading of rhino horns. Rising incomes across Asia mean that demand for powdered rhino horn is on the increase.
Malay Barua of Early Birds also supported the views. He commented that the State forest department has little credibility among the people of Assam, and hence a CBI probe was very important. All the speakers supported the demand, though on burning the rhino horns, there were different voices that those horns should be preserved in museums (or any safe places) after conducting the forensic tests.
The issue came alive in a recent public consultation in Guwahati on June 11, where the Central Forest Minister Ramesh was also present. Raising the issue of rhino horns in the meeting, activist Soumyadeep Datta and JFA president Rupam Barua expressed their resentments that the Assam government was not serious about the CBI probe. They also pointed out that without the probe, some corrupt forest officials would continue smuggling rhino horns into the illegal international market.