GUWAHATI: A gang involved in illegally capturing and smuggling elephants out of Assam came to light after forest department busted a thriving racket in the state.
Forest officials said that confiscation of two female elephants at Badhoi Panchali in Dibrugarh district in April led them to the arrest of three persons -- a mahout, his helper and a middleman of the racket Rahim Hussain on June 17.
Forest different said that the confiscation of elephants and arrests were not made public until now for the sake of getting hold of the two kingpins running the racket.
However, the kingpins managed to get tipoff of the arrests and escaped when a 50-member team of forest officials and police raided their hideout at Merapani in Golaghat district recently.
Forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma has directed the department to go all out for nabbing the two absconders and dismantle the racket involved in elephant smuggling.
"It's a serious crime that has come to light. Since the confiscation of the two elephants, I have asked my officials to get hold of those involved in such serious wildlife crime. We need to unearth and dismantle this racket," Brahma said.
Wildlife Crime Control Bureau's assistant director K K Sarma is also involved in the investigation on elephant smuggling racket.
Digboi forest division's divisional forest officer R K Das said that investigation revealed that the two elephants of 7 to 8 years old were trapped in Arunachal Pradesh.
"A mahout and his helper along with the elephants were on their way to Merapani in Golaghat district. When we intercepted them at Badhoi Panchali, the persons did not have with them any legal documents of owners. Neither the elephants were micro-chipped as identification of legal their owners. Even elephants were not fully tamed, indicating that they were freshly captured from the wild," Das said.
Das said that the kingpins have links with another racket in Nagaland, bordering Assam's Golaghat district, which supplies fake documents on ownership of elephants illegally trapped in the wild.
Forest officials said as sale of captive elephants are banned, the smugglers in Assam uses these fake documents for inter-state transfer of elephants. "These elephants are then illegally sold once transferred outside Assam," a forest official said."