GOLAKGANJ, June 20 � Snake hide smuggled out of the State are finding lucrative international markets, especially in Japan where it is being used for making bags, footwear, food products and medicines.
The issue came to light when Gauripur Forest Beat Office staff under Dhubri division caught several snake charmers near Modati and Alomganj areas and recovered a large number of cobras and pythons which were later set free in the forests.
In Rupshi areas, one dozen pythons were seized by the Dhubri forest staff recently. According to Dhubri forest department sources, about 200-300 numbers of snake skin are being smuggled out every year from Dhubri and its adjacent areas to Bangladesh which are later sold in the international market on the way to Japan. The areas have become major transit points for smuggling of cobra and python skins. Of the 234 species of snakes found in the country, most of them are found in Assam and the North East in general excluding the arid species and sea snakes.
According to Abu Naser Zilani, president of Udayan, a local NGO of Dhubri, said that most snake charmers in the countryside are turning into snake smugglers. �The trade is very lucrative as each snake skin fetches Rs 5,000 on an average in the international market and multiplied by the number of snake skins which are smuggled from the State, it fetches the smugglers a good amount of money.� Apart from Assam, which is a fertile centre for the snake skin trade, Meghalaya is a big centre for the reptile trade and last year volunteers of the organisation released 100 snakes in the forests after rescuing them from snake charmers. Among the snake species most common for smuggling, the ratsnake and python are being hunted as they are non-venomous.
The snake charmers, who catch the snakes from the forest areas of Dhubri district, dip the snake in codliver oil to remove the skin which is later sent to agents in this trade. Though the Wildlife Protection Act stipulates that snakes cannot be caught, it is being done openly and regularly and the whole trafficking involves a large number of snake charmers, encouraging smuggling under the very nose of the authorities.