Millennium Post

Lion cub smuggling case: Forest dept to move to higher court

Kolkata: The state Forest department will move to a higher forum, seeking cancellation of bail for the three persons who were arrested in the wee hours of Saturday on charges of smuggling a lion cub and three langurs. The trio was granted bail on being produced at Barrackpore Court later in the day, even though the Forest department had prayed for judicial custody.

"We are speaking with our public prosecutor and will move to a higher court, preferably the Calcutta High Court, for cancellation of bail of the three arrested persons. We are not ruling out the involvement of an international racket in this illegal animal trade and we need to take them into custody and interrogate them for more leads," said state Chief Wildlife Warden Ravikant Sinha.

A three-month-old lion cub and three white headed langurs, which included two adults and one juvenile, were rescued from a vehicle on Belghoria Expressway through a raid carried out jointly by the state Forest department's Wildlife Crime Control Unit (WCCU) and the Centre's Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB).

According to preliminary investigation, the lion cub trapped inside a nylon bag and the three langurs were being smuggled from the Benapole-Petrapole border via Kolkata to Western India.

The rescued animals were taken to Alipore Zoo's Hospital later in the day. "They are in quarantine and are doing well. The veterinary doctors at the zoo hospital are giving them proper medicines and diet," said Vinod Kumar Yadav, member secretary of West Bengal Zoo Authority. The animals were very weak and famished when they were rescued.

According to a senior Forest department official, possession, transportation or confinement of any animal protected under the Wildlife act is a punishable offence and the maximum punishment, if proven guilty, is seven years of imprisonment.

The International Union for Classification of Nature (IUCN) has classified white headed langur as a 'critically endangered' species, while Asiatic lion is classified as 'endangered'.

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