Indian police thwart elephant smuggling ring

Indian police have busted what they say is a transnational elephant-smuggling ring – highlighting a new threat to one of the country's most iconic animals. Officers in the north-eastern state of Assam said they arrested five people and recovered three elephants – two of them calves – that were destined to be illegally trucked across the country and even abroad.

Police said that documents gathered during the raid suggested the ring had been responsible for smuggling almost 100 elephants over the past five years. The elephants can reportedly sell for up to £50,000.

Elephants are protected under a 1972 law and the sale of the animals is illegal. Even transporting one across state boundaries requires an extensive documentation process and the permission of the chief wildlife officer.

But reports suggest that, having been captured, drugged and even whipped into submission, elephants are trafficked in much the same way as people, with fake documents being prepared and bribes being paid to officials.

Police in Assam carried out a three-day operation, which concluded with the arrest of the five suspected smugglers, after being contacted by a local wildlife protection group, the Green Heart Nature Club.

The group's director, Bablu Dey, said: "Over five years, this group is believed to be responsible for smuggling at least 92 elephants. These animals are captured from across the north-east and then brought to Assam. We think many elephants are being held in remote villages before being smuggled." Mr Dey added that the illegal trade was driven largely by wealthy businessmen in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who wanted to keep the animals as status symbols. He said there was evidence the animals were also smuggled outside of India, with some being trucked into Nepal and Burma.

The superintendent of police in the western Assamese district of Kokrajhar, P K Dutta, said he believed the ring may have been trying to smuggle as many as 10 elephants when it was caught. It is not known what happened to the seven animals not recovered.

He told the Associated Press that smugglers regularly captured wild elephants from the forests of Assam, trained them for a year or two, and then claimed they were the offspring of the state's many domestic elephants.

Earlier this year, the Indian government acknowledged that with many conservation efforts focusing on the highly threatened tiger, the plight of India's elephants was often overlooked. To remedy this, the authorities announced in September that they planned to make the elephant a so-called national heritage animal and to afford it the same level of protection as that received by the tiger.

"We need to give the same degree of importance to the elephant as is given to the tiger to protect the big animal," said the Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh.

It is estimated that there are 26,000 Asian elephants in India, of which 3,500 are working animals. While the total has not experienced the sort of drastic decline undergone by the tiger, the gender ratio is badly skewed and in some areas there is just one male elephant for 100 females.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently looking fo...

Year 3/4 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Job Share Year 3/4 Teacher...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments