Apoorva Joshi

PhD student - Michigan State University; Independent journalist - environment, science and international news.

Fellow - International League of Conservation Writers.

Member - Society of Environmental Journalists, International Communication Association.

Supermarket- of a different kind-

It's a well known fact that the illegal trade in Wild animals and their "products" has been going on for quite some time now. right from the early 1990s. the "proprietor" of most of the trading chains happens to be known as the "Veerapan of the north" alias- Sansar Chand. a well known name,and of significant fame!
The earliest incontrovertible evidence of a gigantic market emerged in August 1993, when the Delhi police,with the assistance of forest dept. officials & TRAFFIC-India seized a huge haul of 283 kg of Tiger bones,estimably representing the remains of 25 Tigers.Along with the bones, 8 Tiger skins, 43 Leopard skins, and over 100 skins of sundry protected animals were seized from Pema Thinley, a Tibetan exile and Mohammad Yaqub, a known local skin trader.
the sheer scale of the haul was atrocious, and the claim of the accused to the operator that they could produce 1000kg of Tiger bone within a month revealed the mammoth scale of Delhi's wildlife market.Investigations revealed that a huge network of traders,including Sansar Chand,were procuring wildlife articles from across the country,storing, and supplying to those buyers from Nepal n Tibet.
In the past 10 years,Delhi has continued to be the centre of illegal Tiger trade. In August 1994, 12 mounted Tiger heads and a Tiger skin coat were seized from New Rohtak Road, and in December 1994, 2 Tiger skins were found with a relative of Sansar Chand. Then, the Delhi police seized 6 Tiger skins from a Kashmiri trader in April 1996 and in November 1997, a person was arrested in Delhi's Nizammudin area with a Tiger skin.By the end of 1996, two separate seizures in Delhi, revealed 2 Tiger skins, a Leopard skin, n some Chital Deer skins. There was a skin recovery in 1999 and 2000, 2 separate confiscations in Lajpatnagar and Anand Vihar which had the police on the tail of traders with international links.In 2001 and 2002 one skin seizure each were recorded.In February 2003, the Delhi Police recovered a mounted Tiger head and a skin.Clearly the trade was alive and well,but equally clear was the fact that we were way behind the trail, which was thriving,but had managed to escape detection.
When the seizure data over the years is analysed, it suggests that Delhi trades in almost evrything that the illegal wildlife market is willing to lift.Ivory carvings,bangles,buttons n cane handles collectively weighing 26.4 kg. were seized from 2 accused in April 2001 while in August 2005, a shop owner from Bhavnagar, Gujarat, was arrested in North Delhi with 6kg of raw ivory in his possession.
Following are a number of such cases which have been listed to prove the extent to which the trade has risen. Statistics have been provided to emphasise the seriousness of the issue, to which only a deaf ear has been turned.

July 2004 - 18kg consignment of Copperhead Rat Snake skins imported.
October 15th, 2005 - illegal consignment of 95 birds, including 6 Peacocks.
May 13th, 2001 - one of the largest bird seizures- 1,200 Red Munias and 33 Alexandrine Parakeets- stopped before being smuggled to the middle east.
June 2002 - recovery of nearly 1,000 kg of common mongoose hair-manufacture of paint brushes.
1999 - in the 1st 3 months- 290 'shahtoosh' shawls confiscated.
February 2001 - 70 shawls.
September 26th 2001 - 460 kg of shahtoosh wool -3 different incidents within a month.
April 2003 - 215 kg or PURE shahtoosh wool-from truck to Majnu ka Tila- infamous residential area of Tibetan migrants.
November 2005 - in 4days CBI arrested 5traders-planned operation-recovered 21 shawls.
Early 2005- Sansar Chand's daughter found in possession of 1 Snow Leopard , 7 Leopard and 2 Tiger skins. Further investigation led police to Shadi-Khampur where a veritable supermall of grizzly contraband was unearthed involving 30 Leopard, 42 Otter skins, 3 kg of Tiger nails, 14 Tiger teeth, 20 Tiger claws, 10 Tiger jaws, 60 kg of Leopard claws, 135 kg of Porcupine quills. - this was part of the uncontrolled empire of the notorious wildlife trafficker, Sansar Chand who takes delivery orders on telephone and supplies the products of choice to voracious international customers.
April 2005 - Timarpur police recovered 45 Leopard and 14 Otter skins.-said skins were procured from Sansar Chand-transporting them to Kathmandu.
February 2006 - 34 freshly tanned Leopard skins n 4 Otter skins.-destined for Siliguri n then to Nepal.
Decmber 18th, 1999 - consignment of 50 Leopard skins and 5 Otter skins, and 3 Tiger skins recovered.
May 2000 - parcel containing 50 Leopard and 5 Otter skins recovered.
April 2000 - a Leopard skin and nearly 4 kg of 'charas' from 2 accused.
March 1988 - Seelampur police recovered 26,000 snake skins , 2,000 small cat skins, and some Tiger skins from the house of one Maqbool.
1992, 1995, and January 2003, saw some major recoveries as well.

Sansar Chand has been aressted twice and released on both occasions. No further action against him has been taken and the illegal supermarket continues to have a thriving existence, with thousands of buyers, millions of willing suppliers, and a number of meddlesome middle-men, all of whom work against the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 , and fearlessly and/or ruthlessly deprive the Wild animals of their rights. An article on the background and a briefing on Sansar Chand will be uploaded next.
please note- the statistics are from Sanctuary Asia - the most reknowned Wildlife magazine there is. They are absolutely correct and a genuine apology to Sanctuary Asia for having used the material from an article in the issue- April 2006. Thank u.



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