Monday, January 11, 2010

Police set decoy, seize pair of lion' paws

Police set decoy, seize pair of lion' paws
Times of India

The Amreli district police has seized two paws with nine claws on them from two locals who were arrested while trying to sell them for Rs 1.5 lakh. While forest department officials said the stuff seized was fake, there was a buzz in the region about a local gang being involved in poaching.

Acting on a tip-off that Dhiru Patel of Mariyana village and Allarakha Khokhar of Vijapadi village in Savarkundla were selling lion paws and claws, the police set a decoy who posed as a buyer before the two.

Superintendent of Police, Amreli district, SS Trivedi said a deal was struck with the sellers. As soon as the two produced the paws, they were detained and handed over to the forest department.

Senior officials, including principal conservator of forest (wildlife) BN Srivastav, rushed to the spot after getting the news. Srivastav said, "We inspected the paw and prima facie found it to be fake and not that of a lion." He added that the sample was sent to Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Gandhinagar to find out how it was made.

Officials said that if at all it turned out to be a lion paw, it would be for the first time that locals would be found involved in poaching. So far, 16 persons, alleged members of a gang from Katni in Madhya Pradesh, have been arrested for poaching eight lions in 2007 in Bhavnagar and Junagadh districts.

The incidents of poaching were of lions electocuted in farm fences mainly set up to secure crops. In 2009, two incidents of poaching were reported where current was passed through fences to protect the farm and one where a lion fell into a trap.

About lion claws, forest officials said they sold like gemstones in parts of Saurashtra where they are part of a cult. These claws are worn for virility and also as status symbols. Fishermen venturing out to sea wear it to make them lion-hearted'. Sold at prices ranging up to Rs 20,000-25,000 per claw, people have encased these claws in gold and wear them as pendants. These claws are being sold openly in the market and one has to be careful of the cheats who are moving around selling fake claws, said the officials.

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