After TNIE expose, 18 monitor lizards seized, 3 arrested in Krishnagiri

The forest team said Karthik and Raja were bringing the lizards in a concealed box kept inside the luggage carrier of the bus.
Two suspects caught by forest officials for allegedly carrying monitor lizards in Krishnagiri district on Sunday
Two suspects caught by forest officials for allegedly carrying monitor lizards in Krishnagiri district on Sunday(Photo | Express)

CHENNAI: The state forest department on Sunday seized 18 monitor lizards that were transported on a private bus from Thanjavur to Sikkarimedu village, which is notorious for selling bushmeat, in Krishnagiri district. This is the first time that officials have caught people red-handed transporting wildlife on a private bus, although it is well-known that the majority of the trade happens through this channel.

Three people were arrested in connection with the illegal transportation and have been remanded. The arrested are identified as J Karthik of Pudukkottai and M Deva of Sikkarimedu and A Raja of Aiyur village in Krishnagiri.

The forest team is on the lookout for kingpin Nadesan, Thangam Reddy, Arun Kumar and Sikkandar, all from Sikkarimedu village, who are at large. Monitor Lizards, a schedule 1 species, is one of the most hunted reptiles in India. The lizards are hunted for their meat and skin. The forest team said Karthik and Raja were bringing the lizards in a concealed box kept inside the luggage carrier of the bus. They were planning to handover the reptiles to Deva, who is a close aide of Nadesan.

The crackdown came after an expose in which TNIE travelled with State Board for Wildlife member Antony Clement Rubin to Sikkarimedu posing as customers and rescued a live lizard. The reptile was later handed over to the Hosur DFO Karthikeyani and intelligence inputs were shared with him.

Hosur DFO K Karthikeyani told TNIE that the operation was carried out on Sunday morning. “This is the first time we were able to zero in on the private bus and catch the suspects red-handed. The bus driver was also booked. Details about the supplier are being probed and it will be informed to the divisions concerned for cooperation in arresting the accused. Notices have been issued to two bus owners in this case. We are also taking measures to create awareness among the bus operators at Hosur and Krishnagiri,” she said.

Security tightened up in village

Temporary checkposts will be placed near the entrance of Sikkarimedu. Surveillance through CCTV cameras will be strengthened,” she said. R Sharath Babu, Bangalore-based wildlife consultant, said it is not just monitor lizards that are being targeted. “It is good that the state forest department is trying to find out the source. All the while it was believed that reptiles were being caught around the village and sold, but animals are being brought from Pudukkottai and Tiruchy,” he said.

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