HUBBALLI: Forest Mobile Squad sleuths from Shivamogga have stumbled upon something never seen before during seizures of wildlife contraband in the state. The team, which conducted a raid near a village in Soraba, recovered hippopotamus tusks from three men. The accused were trying to sell the booty to a decoy when the raid was conducted late on Monday night.
Three persons were arrested for possession of the contraband. A car which was used for transportation has also been seized and the accused have been remanded to judicial custody.
The recovery of hippo tusks has baffled the raiding team as well as wildlife experts. When tusks are involved in wildlife trade, they are usually elephant ivory or fake ones made using the bones of lions and camels. But finding hippo tusks has led to the investigating team exploring all possible angles to trace their origin.
"We cannot comment at this point from where the accused procured the tusks. In many cases, the contraband changes hands and hence we are now trying to check where these hippo tusks may have come from. We have some leads and further investigation will lead us to the actual culprits," said an investigating official.
The accused were identified as Muzzaffar Hassan, 19, a native of Honnavar working in a garment store in Bengaluru, Zahid Khan, 30, from Sorab, a dealer of electronic goods, and Mohammed Danish, 22, from Bhatkal who works in a pest control agency in Bengaluru. Incidentally Zahid has already been booked once by Sagar police for narcotics crimes. He has also confessed to having served a jail term once before.
"The trio had come to Shivamogga to meet a middleman to supply the ivory to a kingpin in the trade for a price. Forest officials said some of the hippo ivory was larger than elephant tusks and the size had left them baffled," said a raiding team member.
The Karnataka Forest Department has now roped in the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and Wildlife Institute of India for forensic investigation and prosecution.