Pithoragarh, 29 June 2005 (PTI)
Dharchula, a border town in this district of Uttaranchal, is fast becoming a haven for illegal trade in wildlife organs given its rough, hilly terrain and proximity to Nepal and Tibet.
Delhi, Jammu and Taklakot area in Tibet are the three centres used as conduits to smuggle out the high-demand items to the international grey market, says a report compiled by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (wildlife crime cell).
The report reveals that since May 2000, there have been seizures of 131 leopard skins, a snow-leopard skin, 15 pelts of other wild animals, 127 kg shahtoosh wool, 126 gm bear bile and other wildlife parts in the Kumaon region and smugglers arrested have admitted their connection with Dharchula.
Proximity of Dharchula to Nepal and Tibet (China) and local trade relations with these countries combined with the hilly terrain and poor surveillance by Indian enforcement agencies make it convenient for smuggling, the report says.
Garbed as local traders, smugglers often dupe the police and other agencies by hiding shahtoosh wool in bags of Chinese silk or Tibetan wool on the backs of pack animals, it says.
Tiger and leopard skins are carried with their clothes and sometimes tribal women work as couriers.
In the international grey market, the going rates are tiger pelt Rs 50,000-90,000, leopard skin Rs 3,000-12,000, tiger bones and bear bile (medicinal purposes) Rs 1,500-2,000 and Rs 6,000-8,000 per kg, shahtoosh wool Rs 22,000-35,000 for a kg, 10 gm musk Rs 8,000-10,000, snow-leopard skin Rs 50,000-75,000, the report adds.
News Source: http://www.outlookindia.com