Ahmednagar (Maharashtra), Feb 03 (Localwire): In what is said to be an unprecedented case, a smuggled King Cobra was rescued and later flown to Odisha for safe release to its natural habitat, last week, officials said.
The incident came to light when Maharashtra Forest Dept officials were alerted by Railway Protection Force (RPF) after they caught a suspected consignment of smuggled wild reptiles at Ahmednagar station on Jan. 13.
The RPF nabbed one Chandrababu Rankamani Naik of Bargarh, Odisha after he was found carrying the consignment of snakes by the Hatia-Pune Superfast Express.
The forest department were stunned to find at least six dangerous and banned snake specimens, plus a rare green Iguana.
The other snakes in the haul were: a red sand boa, a slender coral, a Günther’s racer, a common trinket, a yellow spotted wolf snake, and a common wolf snake.
The accused Naik was produced before a magistrate court and sent to 11 days police custody.
It was only during his interrogation and further investigation that a few more names of his accomplices emerged, and the matter of the smuggled King Cobra came to light, said the officials.
The 3.1 metres long King Cobra, smuggled earlier, was kept at an associate’s home and efforts were on since two months to sell it off to the highest bidder. It was reportedly labelled as a “Malaysian King Cobra” to avoid detection by Indian wildlife authorities.
The investigation team also learnt that this particular species of the King Cobra was a native of Odisha forests and would not survive in the wilds of Maharashtra.
Naik’s four local accomplices confessed that they had agreed to a ‘snake exchange’ against a Malabar Pit viper, a hump-nosed pit viper and albino common krait against Naik’s coveted King Cobra.
Accordingly, the accomplices – Avinash Saha, Prashant alias Sopan Thorat from Sangamner, Akshay Ghodge from Barshi and Jagdeesh Revatkar from Chandrapur were also arrested.
Two others from Pune, Amar Godambe and Altaf Shaikh, are absconding and police have launched a manhunt for them.
After taking proper care, the Ahmednagar forest department arranged for an official to carry the King Cobra by flight, back to Odisha, hand it over to local wildlife authority for proper release into its specific natural environs last week.
Through this incident, the forest department and RPF have stumbled upon a new wildlife mafia smuggling racket – by long-distance passenger trains – of such snakes/reptiles for making huge monies, but avoid detection as on the roads/highways.