In another big seizure of exotic animals in Assam and a foiled attempt by smugglers to slip across borders, the Cachar Forest Division on Tuesday confiscated a consignment of exotic wildlife including a baby Kangaroo, a pair of Capuchin monkeys and six Hyacinth Macaws, species of parrot native to South America.
“We have taken the custody of these animals and they are currently in Silchar. Our vets are monitoring their health and their condition is found to be good, but the Hyacinth Macaws are very delicate, so we have decided to get all the animals to Assam State Zoo today,” said Sunnydeo Choudhary, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Cachar, adding that the two drivers of the seized truck would be produced in court and soon after the proceedings, the animals would be transported to Assam zoo.
Three Aldabra tortoises are also part of the seizure - they are one of the world's largest land tortoises native to Aldabra island, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest raised coral atoll in the Indian Ocean on Outer Islands of Seychelles.
According to officials, a truck bearing registration number TS-08-UB1622 was intercepted at the forest check post near Lailapur in Cachar district along the Assam-Mizoram border Tuesday evening.
“We often check these vehicles for illegal timber. When this truck was trying to pass the area around 11:30 pm, our men at the post asked the driver to stop because they could smell something different - our staff was very quick in picking up the odd scent. The driver on questioning said it was a consignment of rotten fruits for COVID-19 related work,” narrated DFO Choudhary.
“When we checked the vehicle, we saw these exotic live wild animals stashed inside small cages, and interestingly, there was a kangaroo. This is just the tip of a greater iceberg - a very organized and big trade of trafficked animals. The consignment was either going to Kolkata or Mumbai, presumably from Myanmar. We are investigating,” he added.
Both Hyacinth Macaws and Aldabra Tortoises are classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List, and protected by their listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Once the rescued animals reach Assam state zoo in Guwahati, Wildlife authorities will take the inventory of the animals at the zoo veterinary hospital, after which they would be shifted to specially arranged enclosures.
“We are getting the enclosures ready for the animals. We will have to get these spaces sanitized and keep them separate. It would be a good location for them. We have some experience in handling such type of animals, but they might also be carrying diseases,” said Tejas Mariswamy, DFO Assam state zoo.
“In the eighties, Assam Zoo had every kind of animal including Kangaroos. We have staff who have been working in the zoo since the eighties. They would be able to help us in handling the new animals,” added Mariswamy.
In March 2018, Assam police and Guwahati Wildlife division had confiscated a huge consignment of live wild animals and reptiles in what was dubbed as the biggest seizure of exotic creatures.
It included four Gaboon Vipers, two Albino Reticulated Pythons, 8 Giant Scorpions, 13 Corn Snakes, two African Spurred Tortoises, three Marmosets, a Meerkat and a Sugar Glider. Interrogation revealed that the animals were sourced from Thailand and handed over to a broker in Mizoram before getting caught at Jorabat, Assam.“The Marmosets did not survive. We could not give them the special diet they are used to as we were not aware of it. This time, we have asked one company in Assam that makes special food for exotic animals to help us with the diet for the monkeys and the kangaroo. We will not repeat the same mistake twice,” said DFO Mariswamy.