Officers from the Junagadh territorial forest department arrested 11 people from the Gujarat districts of Porbandar, Junagadh, Devbhumi Dwarka, Jamnagar and Ahmedabad for allegedly poaching an Indian pangolin from the revenue area of Porbandar and then attempting to sell it for a high price.
Officers from the Kutiyana range in the Junagadh division apprehended two men from Porbandar with a pangolin on December 18 after receiving a tip. According to forest officers, a man rearing cattle caught the scaly mammal after it became entangled in a fishing net he had tied around his agricultural plantation on the outskirts of the Barda Wildlife Sanctuary. He was attempting to sell the nocturnal animal with the assistance of others when the forest department apprehended him.
“The accused were trying to sell the pangolin at a big price and earn easy money when our staff managed to catch two of them with the animal,” Akshay Joshi, deputy conservator of forests (DCF) of Junagadh territorial forest division said Saturday, adding, “Subsequently, we arrested nine other men from Porbandar, Jamnagar, Dwarka, Junagadh and Ahmedabad districts who were part of the group that attempted to sell the pangolin.”
Under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, the forest department has registered a case of pangolin hunting at the Kutiyana range forest office in Porbandar. The Indian pangolin is listed in Schedule I of the Act and thus has the most stringent legal protection in the country. Those who hunt the mammal face up to seven years in prison.
Also called scaly anteaters, pangolins are primarily nocturnal animals whose main diet includes termites, ants and larvae. They are traded illegally for their scales, meat and hide. The DCF said the pangolin they rescued died a day later while it was under observation. “The animal had injury marks on the outside, suggesting it was tortured. Post-mortem revealed it died due to starvation and trauma,” Joshi said.
The accused were produced before a local court in Porbandar and sent to judicial custody. “The kingpin is on the run and efforts are on to arrest him and one more accused,” the forest officer added.