New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken over a probe from Lakshadweep police to investigate a case of alleged smuggling of some endangered species, including 46 live sea cucumbers and 173 taxidermist sea cucumbers, ThePrint has learnt.
The agency registered the case Monday after a request from the additional director of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, sources in the agency said.
The CBI will be probing a case under the Wild Life (Protection) Act “after many years”, said the sources.
According to the FIR, four persons — Salmanul Faris (22), Irfanuddin (19), Rameesh Khan N.P. (25), Mohammad Ali Kodipalli (44) — were arrested from Suheli Cheriyakara island in Lakshadweep after they were found to be in possession of dead and live sea cucumbers. ThePrint has a copy of the FIR.
“The men were found to be in possession of 99 dead sea cucumbers (white) stuffed with salt after removing the intestine, 74 dead sea cucumbers (black) preserved with salt, 46 big size live sea cucumbers white, which is a grave, cognizable offence under the Wild Life Protection Act. They were to trade the species, which again is a crime,” said a CBI officer, who didn’t wish to be named.
Possession of sea cucumber is an offence, said the officer.
“The sea cucumber in marine environments has the same status of tiger, lion in land forest as per schedule 1 of the Wild Life Protection Act. Killing of 173 sea cucumbers is equal to 173 tigers or lions,” he said.
“Since all these species are flagship species, the ecological damage to the environment due to killing of the 173 sea cucumbers cannot be ascertained in near future. The CBI has now taken over the case and will be probing it,” he added.
The CBI will now work on unearthing the larger conspiracy and the smuggling racket, said the officer. “We will probe several aspects in the case including where these men were to sell the sea cucumbers, their demand in the international market, the entire nexus of buyers and sellers.”
Fishing expedition in Suheli island
According to the FIR, the smuggling racket came to fore on 10 January when the Lakshadweep Police received an input late night that a group of men on a “fishing expedition” were actually engaged in illegal collection and trade of sea cucumbers locally called ‘koka’.
After getting the information, a team of local police, officers of the fisheries department, and wildlife department left for Suheli Island in vessels and speed-boats early morning.
“The team reached the island at 12:30 pm and suspiciously found a fishing boat named Khyber 2 in the sea with four persons at western side of the island. The team went near the boat and enquired about their whereabouts, purpose of visit,” the FIR said.
According to the FIR, the men told the police that they were there for fishing which they had collected and were planning to leave.
“When the team inspected the boat, it found 8 bags filled with 98 white dead sea cucumbers stuffed with salt after removing intestines, 74 black dead sea cucumbers artificially preserved with salt. On further search, 46 live sea cucumbers were found in a fish collection tank,” said the FIR.
“The entire boat was seized and the four men were arrested. During enquiry accused were asked about their intention behind the illegal act and it was found that all were aware about consequences of this act,” it added.
“The seized articles were taken to the department of environment and forest and the men were taken into custody.”