VELLORE: Alert Gudiyattam forest range officials on Wednesday busted an illicit mongoose hair trade racket with the arrest of four persons. This is the first time in the State that such a racket has been unearthed.
According to Vellore district forest officer Sumanth Soman, around 5.5 kg of hair poached from mongoose - the value of which is yet to be ascertained - was seized from the accused. The main offender was identified as M S Ashraf Ali (62), a native of Palamaner in Andhra Pradesh. A two-wheeler used by him was also seized.
Acting on a tip off, the forest officials, led by forest ranger L Kumar, intercepted Ali near Kattamitta village on the inter-state border on Wednesday, when he was trying to flee with the material. Three locals from Gudiyattam town associated with him in the trade were also nabbed. They were identified as S Balaji (28), G Kumar (23) and K Mani (52). Another accomplice Anandan (42) escaped. All the four were booked under Wildlife Act, 1972, Schedule (2), part 2, section 16. Further investigations are on.
Mongooses are largely an endangered species, as they are poached for their hair for making soft paint brushes. The wanton poaching still continues unabated in some parts of the State. Most of the hunting is done by regular poachers hired to noose and kill these animals in the months of April and May.
Sources said that for obtaining one kg of mongoose hair, at least 50 animals need to be killed. Each mongoose yields about 40 grams of hair, but when sorted only 20 grams is suitable for making paint brushes. Mongoose hair brushes are often sold as sable or badger brushes.
Mongooses help save billions of worth food crops annually by preying on rodents, snakes, insects and other smaller animals. The animal which was protected under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Act until 1991, has been reclassified into Schedule II species now.
India is considered a major illegal exporter of mongoose hair, which is smuggled to the Middle East, the US and Europian countries. By buying brushes made of mongoose hair, make-up artists, painters and even children in many countries become unwitting accomplices to this illicit trade.