Thursday, 5 February, 2009

More to spy birds: Poaching rare birds for Pakistan?

6 Feb 2009
Dhanesh Patil, TNN
THANE: The Anti Poaching Unit, the vigilance wing of the forest department, and a Mumbai-based NGO, has trapped a group of people for dealing with wild birds illegally. What's shocking is that the birds recovered belong to the same species that have been earlier used by Pakistan as spies. So what seemed like a case of the forest department trapping people to save the rare species of birds has now assumed a new dimension. The Intelligence Bureau is reportedly looking whether this case is linked with Pakistan. The accused are now in police custody.

The case began with founder of PAWS, the NGO, Sunish Subramanyam registering a complaint against the website, where the wild birds are placed for sale. The Thane forest department took the lead and arrested two youths - Farhan Anwar Khan (24) and Mohammed Siddiqui Sayyed (25) aka Javed - and seized their vehicle, a Santro on Jan 31. The department trapped these people near Santa Cruz airport. After interrogation, the duo revealed the name of Ashpak Yasin Mohmin (30), the main seller of these birds. The department then trapped Ashpak at Crawford Market on Feb 4. He has a shop there and he undertakes the illegal activity of selling rare species of birds from here.

"We received a complaint against this illegal activity following the complaint regarding the website. Zeroing in on this, we trapped the three accused. The Schedule I Part III of Wildlife Protection Act 1972 says that the birds belong to rare species and there is a ban on their sale. The duo asked for a price of Rs 12,000 for each bird thus violating the Wildlife Protection Act. The most important thing is that these birds fall into Schedule I, making them rare species, and hence their conservation is most important for us," said Assistant Conservator of Forests Satish Phale.

Sources said that the forest department had earlier laid two traps to nab the accused, but they failed. Finally, they called the officials at Santa Cruz airport and managed to nab them on Saturday night. The forest department and PAWS team had posed as decoy customers. After getting enough information from the accused, they trapped them.

The sources also claimed that these are the same birds which are used by Pakistan as spies after giving rigorous training. These birds found in northern part of the India and are a rare sight in this area. It is now claimed that there is a chain of people selling such birds. The Intelligence Bureau is now believed to be scrutinising the matter and trying to ascertain whether these men are also linked with the espionage network.

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