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Mirzapur forest department caught 3 men transporting 6 wild animals of cat family. One person named Aarif is in custody of the authorities, while two others fled the spot.The exact reason for smuggling these cats is still unknown.

The animals were being transported using a cage covered with clothes. While the forest department believes it to be 'wild cat', there were also assumptions that it is some exotic cat like 'Puma'. Initially, there were also reports that the animals rescued are civets.

However, the photographs made exclusively available to us by local journalists and the description given by them indicates that it may be the very rare species of cat called 'Caracal' which is a protected species under Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Though it is not yet confirmed that whether the animals are poached from Mirzapur, but the forests of Mirzapur have been historically known for Caracal habitats. Bombay Natural History Society has also documented an incident of Caracal attacking a man in Mirzapur in its book 'Wild Animals of India' published in 2004.

Out of 6 animals rescued, 5 of the animals resembled the likes of Caracal, the sixth one is reportedly of leopard-cat. However, there is no confirmation yet from the Forest Department on the identification of the animals. Vindhya Bachao have managed to get few photographs of one of the animal which are posted here (photo arrangement: Shiva Kumar Upadhyaya). They further have circulated the photographs among few wildlife researchers, photographers and historians, who are of the view that the cat species is of 'Caracal' (Caracal caracal).

This particular species is very rare and protected as Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.  The forests of Mirzapur are known as being a habitat of the elusive Caracal and these species being very shy, it is very rare to see them. There are historical published evidences of Caracals in Mirzapur district including one incident where a Caracal has attacked a man.

It is imperative that the Forest Department undertake a complete examination of the animals rescued by wildlife experts and initiate detailed investigation in order to ensure the protection of their dwindling numbers.

Adapted from a news update and request for urgent attention from Vindhya bachao.

Mumbai, 5 December 2014: Shocked by online reports of the plight of birds, snakes and other creatures housed in Culcutta Snake Park located at Kolkata’s Madhyamgram area, Mumbai animal activist Shakuntala Majumdar (09322271966, thanespca@hotmail.com) sent independent investigators and later made a detailed complained to the Animal Welfare Board of India. The Animal Welfare Board, in turn, wrote a complaint to the Central Zoo Authority on 17 November 2014 that pointed out, “The snakes are kept in a small cage and monkeys were kept in metal rusting bars in a smaller cage, tortoises locked in rusting boxes, crocodile swimming among plastic bottles and birds in cages are very small (sic). It was also alleged that the place may well be a holding place for trafficking of wild animals.”

“It was also reported that several dogs are being held in Kennels behind the birds enclosures. The kennels were soaking wet, and many different breeds were in a single kennel with little personal space or shelter,” said the letter addressed by S Vinod Kumar (98848 81355), Secretary of Animal Welfare Board of India, to Bishan Bonal, Member Secretary, Central Zoo Authority, Janpath (9868100169). See the attached letter.

The complainant, Shakuntala Majumdar, is herself an active member of Maharashtra State Animal Welfare Board.

The Kolkata Snake Park is owned by showman and entrepreneur Deepak Mitra (See http://www.dipakmitra.net/cnp_dipakmitra.htm). Mr Dipak Mitra is a member of the West Bengal state wildlife advisory board, and may be contacted on 09831404379 and 033-24632425.

“While we hope that the allegations are exaggerated, we would request that a thorough investigation be made with immediate effect,” wrote Ms Majumdar in her complaint, citing page 44 to 48 of an earlier report by Canadian NGO Zoo Check (http://www.zoocheck.com/reportpdfs/indianreport1.pdf ) and also a blog

https://adiplomatsdaughter.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/i-visited-the-worst-zoo-in-the-world/

“Snakes are kept in tiny boxes with no environmental enrichment and many of them had dry skins flaking off their bodies. At least twenty Water Monitor Lizards were observed, all malnourished and dehydrated, with ribs showing and dehydrated. These animals had insufficient access to water and were in overcrowded conditions. Investigators were told by reliable sources that they were collected from the wild in very large numbers by misusing permits provided to the owner for conducting reptile research,” says Ms Majumdar, who is Chairman of Thane SPCA.

“The investigators noticed many animals in Calcutta Snake Park in tiny, stygian and filthy cages. Monkeys were also observed in very small cages with signboards saying, ‘Rescued on Behalf of the Chief Wildlife Warden of Bengal. Birds have been kept in cages hardly bigger than they are and their feathers were observed twisted and broken. This facility has been reported repeatedly for inadequate conditions for animals and also for its involvement in alleged illegal wildlife trade for many decades now but surprisingly, the West Bengal Forest Department has continued to send wild animals to this place, despite the fact that many animals have been reported to die here. The Indian Zoo Inquiry suggested that this place be closed down for numerous serious deficiencies and the animals be relocated elsewhere to more appropriate accommodation elsewhere.

“Calcutta Snake Park is abusing wildlife along with West Bengal Snake Park. Animal Welfare Board of India has already requested the Central Zoo Authority to act to take action against the owner, Dipak Mitra. The same also applies for the West Bengal Snake Park. Wildlife and animal welfare activists alike fervently urge enforcement authorities, the West Bengal Forest Department and the Central Zoo Authority to take necessary action to close down these captive animal dungeons and relocate the abused animals to more appropriate facilities.