A kingpin of illegal ivory trade was arrested at Kothagiri in the Nilgiris in a joint operation by Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) and the Forest Department.
Based on intelligence gathered by the Bureau’s Southern Region (Chennai and Kochi), its sleuths and Forest Department officials from the Kanniykaumari Forest Division had conducted a series of raids, in which they seized several ivory products and arrested three persons. The house of suspected kingpin in the trade, Nagarajan of Tenkasi, was also raided. But he had fled the place. By tracking his call records, it was learnt that he had fled to the Nilgiris.
Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden, Tamil Nadu, in consultation with Tilotama Varma, Additional Director, WCCB, and the Regional deputy Director, Southern Region, Kirubasankar immediately formed an investigating team.
The team led by District Forest Officer, the Nilgiris, Guru Swamy Dabbala conducted a nearly five-hour search and arrested arrested Nagarajan at Kotagiri.
The team also effected a huge seizure of raw tusks, carved ivory products, bangles, other artefacts, and elephant bones. On intensive interrogation, several facts related to illegal trade of ivory products had come to light, revealing a network of illegal elephant ivory trade across Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Kolkata, Mr. Niraj said.
The accused, approximately 70 years old, seemed to have been involved in the illegal trade for several years. A large number of antiques was found at his residence in Kotagiri. The accused stated that he had a passion for elephant ivory and that he felt blessed when he used elephant ivory products, such as bangles and necklaces.
On completion of the interrogation and investigation, he would be produced before the First Class Judicial Magistrate under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
The WCCB is also working on the links to Kolkata and different parts of India. The Forest Department team in the Nilgiris is investigating a number of documents, including bank transaction papers, digital data, and several files seized from the house of Nagarajan.
On instructions from Mr. Niraj, an application has also been moved before the Sessions Court in Kanniyakumari for permission to further interrogate the other offenders who were arrested.