KOCHI: What have superstitions in Malaysia got to do with wildlife in Kerala? The mystery is unravelled by one word - trafficking. Superstitious beliefs in the Southeast Asian nation have apparently led to a spurt in wildlife trafficking in the state, as indicated by the recent seizure of wildlife articles and animals. Sand boa - a non-venomous snake found across Kerala and South India - is one such reptile frequently caught by wildlife traffickers for sale abroad, fetching high prices in the international market.
P M Sajith, an inspector with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), had caught four sand boas meant for overseas trade in the past year from different parts of Ernakulam district.
“In Malaysia, a superstition exists possessing sand boa will bring money home,” Sajith told Express.
“A few weeks ago, we had a case in which we caught a person from Edavanakkad looking to sell a sand boa. In the guise of a potential customer, we approached him and he demanded Rs 10 crore for a red sand boa. We bargained and brought the price down to Rs 5 crore. We have information people from countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Japan are coming to Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to buy sand boas. Even though traders demand crores of rupees for sand boa, on an average, each sand boa is procured for around Rs 20-50 lakh.”
Apart from sand boa, turtles, lizards and ivory are associated with superstition in Malaysia. “Since these animals fetch good amounts, more people are getting engaged in such illegal activities. We suspect these goods are sent outside through the Myanmar and the Nepal borders. There are also attempts to smuggle out wildlife through airports. But, considering the high risk, wildlife products and animals are taken by road,” said an officer with Forest Flying Squad.
In a recent trend, Sajith said, more youngsters are getting involved in the trafficking of wildlife products. “In a majority of the cases reported in Ernakulam, youngsters aged 18-30 would be involved. For making easy money, they get involved in such illegal trade,” he said. Forest officers said, once the monsoon starts, illegal trade would shift gears.