Origins, Destination Of Seized Caracals Remains A Mystery
Early in the month of January 2017, the Mirzapur Forest Department apprehended three wildlife traders from Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, for the illegal possession and trafficking of five caracals and one serval. After the initial frenzy in the media, the news of the seizure took a backseat to more recent political issues. However, the wildlife fraternity remains concerned as no headway has been made in cracking the origins or the intended destination of the wild cats.
Photo: Anupam/Dainik Jagran.
One of the seized animals, the serval, was initially thought to be a leopard cat, until expert analysis declared it an African serval. This raises questions over the geographical origin of the wild cats, as caracals too are native to Africa, and their distribution in India remains uncertain.
While the official report states that the animals were brought from Bihar and were being transported to Hyderabad, the Forest Department of Mirzapur has speculated over the possibility of the caracals having been smuggled in from Africa. According to Sanctuary’s on ground sources, the Forest Department has claimed with assurance that these seized caracals are in fact not wild-caught as their behaviour is characteristic of captive-bred animals. In this scenario, it is for the best that the animals remain in captivity at their current location in the Lucknow zoo.
“Though I am not aware of the zoo’s future arrangements for these rescued animals, I have been assured by the authorities of the animals’ well being. They are in good health”, said K.K. Pandey, DFO, Mirzapur.
While another arrest has been made in the case, investigations are ongoing. A team from the Mirzapur Police Division was sent to Hyderabad, to carry out further enquiries. “It could be an international racket. We had approached the Special Task Force (STF) for their assistance but they were already overburdened with other high-priority cases”, said Pandey. Sanctuary was also informed by a source, who requested anonymity, that the caracals and serval were destined for a private menagerie in Mumbai. However, this information cannot be verified.
As the authorities grapple to ascertain the origin of these animals, the case raises uncomfortable questions about India’s underground wildlife market. Were these cats smuggled into the country or were they bred illegally to supply a demand for exotic pets? How rampant is the underground wildlife trade and who are its perpetrators?
Author: Anadya Singh