GOLAKGANJ, Oct 9 � Snake skins smuggled out of Assam are finding lucrative international markets especially in Japan where those are used for making bags, footwear, food products and medicines. This fact came to light when Gauripur Forest Beat Office staff under Dhubri division caught several snake charmers near the Modati and Alomganj areas and recovered a large number of cobras and pythons which were later set free in the forests.
In Rupshi areas, a dozen pythons were seized by the Dhubri forest staff recently. According to Dhubri forest department sources, about 200-300 snake skins are smuggled out every year from Dhubri and its adjacent areas of Assam to Bangladesh which is later sold in the international market on 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 �except the arid species and sea snakes � are found in Assam and the North-east in general.
Kulodhar Das, Director of Natures Friend, a local NGO of Dhubri district, said that most of the 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.� Apart from Assam which is a fertile centre for the snake skin trade, Meghalaya is a big centre for reptile trade and last year volunteers of the organisation released 100 snakes in the forest of the State after catching them from the snake charmers. Among the snake species the most common for smuggling is the cobra. The rat snake and the python are hunted as they are non-venomous.
The snake charmers who catch the snakes from the forest areas of Dhubri district, dip the snake in cod liver oil to remove the skin which is later sent to agents in this trade. Though the Wildlife Protection Act stipulates that though snakes cannot be caught, the way it is being done openly and regularly under the very nose of the authorities points to the involvement of many people.