The state Forest department has arrested five persons and recovered elephant tusks, skin of leopards and the skull of a bear in Jalpaiguri.
After receiving a tip-off, the Belakoba range of Baikunthapur forest division had conducted a raid and busted the racket involving smuggling of various valuable items. Belakoba ranger Sanjay Dutta led the entire operation and arrested the accused from Oodlabari area.
"We received information from reliable sources that some members of a racket were indulging in smuggling of animal parts in a bid to sell them in the outside market. It was also learnt that these animal parts were brought from various forest areas. We have busted the racket and seized two Maruti cars and one live bullet from their possession,” a senior forest department official said.
According to the official, the department has seized tusks weighing nearly around 800 grams, skin of leopards and the skull of a bear after intercepting the members of the racket. It is likely that the animals were shot dead by poachers.
A government employee was also involved in the racket busted by the Forest department. He has been identified as Dhanesh Bandhu Pradhan, while the other accused are Sachin Chetri, Abinash Chetri, Suraj Sonar and Rajib.
Police said that all the accused are residents of Darjeeling, except for Pradhan who is from Gorubathan. He was working as an employee for the Irrigation department at Gorubathan. The investigating officers came to know from preliminary investigation that the accused had an intension to sell the animal parts at a high price in the outside market.
Police have started a probe to find out whether there were more people involved in the racket. Police and Forest department officials are also investigating whether the accused are part of an international racket dealing in animal parts.
It may be mentioned that a few months ago, the Forest department had busted another smuggling racket near Chalsa in Jalpaiguri. In the course of the investigation, police and Forest department officials had found out that the arrested persons got skin of animals from Bhutan and had plans to smuggle it into Nepal. Police are also investigating whether the two incidents are connected.