BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh forest officials, this week arrested a Kolkata-based businessman, who is part of a global racket involved in smuggling Indian pangolins to China and Vietnam, where its blood, meat and scales are sold to traditional medical practitioners at a premium. This ant-eating mammal with armour of keratin scales has been listed under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as an endangered species. Experts said, "If poaching continues, the pangolin could go extinct." The accused (name kept confidential pending investigation) masterminded the killing of hundreds of pangolins and smuggled them to south Asian countries from Madhya Pradesh and other parts of country, said an officer.

Nine of his local conduits were arrested in state's Chhindwara district in September 2014. At least 47 kg pangolin scales known as 'chuan shan jia' in Chinese were seized. The businessman was arrested by special task force (STF) of state forest department in Kolkata and is being interrogated by Balaghat unit of STF. Speaking to TOI, state chief wildlife warden Narendra Kumar, said, "Arrested businessman is a key link between local poachers and south Asian smugglers. We want to get to the bottom of the international ring. They are brutal gangsters, who dip pangolins in boiling water to extract scales." Officer said there are four layers in the global network and the Kolkata businessman is part of the second one. Passport and other documents reveal frequent visits to China. Officials claim there are two smuggling routes to China-Nepal through north Bengal, Manipur and Myanmar. Local poachers are paid Rs 6000 for scales of one pangolin, which weighs around 1.3 to 2 kg. It is resold for Rs 15,000 to middlemen and Rs 30,000 to those who export illegally. The international value is 30 times more than what is paid to poachers.

Officials claim in traditional Chinese medicine, roasted pangolin scales are used for detoxification of blood, draining pus, curing palsy and stimulating lactation. Using its blood to treat asthma, cancer and reproductive problems is also a common practice in China. "Wildlife crime control bureau is working with us. Interpol help is being sought for further investigation," he said. Pangolins are found mostly in south-eastern parts of Madhya Pradesh, especially Pachmarhi area of Hoshangabad, Chhindwara, Balaghat and Seoni districts of the state. Madhya Pradesh which is largely focused on tiger conservation does not have any project to protect this endangered mammal.

Source: Times of India (Dated 03 May 2015)