The Customs officials posted at the Chennai International Airport heard unusual squeaks from the luggage of a man who had arrived from Bangkok. When opened – a tiny leopard cub was found in the bag
In yet another incident Mumbai police nabbed nine ‘poachers’ who were selling leopard skin.
These are just a tip of the iceberg. In reality, there is a thriving illegal trade of leopard skins and body parts.
The illicit trade in leopard skin and body parts including nails is one of the main reasons why leopards are on the brink of extinction all over the globe. Leopard, scientifically called Panthera pardus is classified as ‘near threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in the last decade or so.
According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India above 3,500 – 4000 leopards have been killed in the past five years.
Illegitimate trading in wildlife is an illegal offence under the wildlife protection act and if convicted it can lead to imprisoned for up to 10 years.
Possessing a wildlife item; even as a part of ancestral /family inheritance without a license is a crime.
A person possessing a protected animal’s skin or body part should write to the chief wildlife warden to obtain a licence or surrender/ hand it over to the forest department.
Leopard skin is said to be worth Rs 10 lakh in the international market. The price depends on the quality of the skin.
There are several conduits in the chain that lure or sell the product or work behind the scene to kill and skin the wild animals. The actual poacher who risked his life to kill the beast gets the least amount – around Rs 5 lakh or even less.
After killing the animal it is skinned carefully without causing the slightest damage to its skin. After the skin is dry enough the claws are clipped and ready for sale.