GUWAHATI: At a time when talks on palm oil and plantation in the Northeast are keeping governments and critics on their toes, the word “palm” grabbed headlines in the Assam on Sunday for a different reason.
Six Palm Cockatoo birds were rescued during a checking exercise at the district’s Dholai village on August 19. According to the police, kept in cages, the six exotic Australian birds were being smuggled by some persons near the Assam-Mizoram border. When the police at the check post noticed them carrying the cages and approached them, they left the birds on the roadside and fled.
The Divisional Forest Officer, Cachar, told the local press that the smugglers have been identified and they are not Indian nationals. “So, it is suspected they (birds) were smuggled from neighbouring countries,” he was quoted as saying.
Earlier on August 17, the Assam police had nabbed a mother-son duo for their alleged involvement in illicit wildlife trading. Hailing from Gita Langkok village in the West Karbi Anglong district of Assam and Meghalaya’s Shillong, the police seized 7.60 grams of pangolin scales from them. During the police operation, authorities shedding light on the rampant pangolin poaching taking place in the area.
Over the past few years, reports of smuggling of exotic animals and birds have been coming frequently from the Northeast. Earlier in October, 2022, about 140 exotic species were rescued in a joint operation between the Mizoram police and the Excise and Narcotics Department in Mizoram’s Champhai district, which shares a border with Myanmar.
According to the 2018 TRAFFIC report titled ‘In Plane Sight’, the trafficking of rhino horns, tiger parts, and pangolin scales exhibits notable prevalence along the borders of Indo-Nepal and Indo-Myanmar-China. Within this context, towns in Northeast India such as Dimapur, Guwahati, and Imphal have emerged as significant transit points for these illegal activities.
Notably, bird and reptile trafficking also occur extensively along the India-Bangladesh border. Recent cases underscore the prominence of cities such as Guwahati, Siliguri, Aizawl, and Jalpaiguri as channels for the illicit trade of exotic animals and birds.