By Pragati Shahi
Banke District Forest officials and Banke District Court have done a commendable job in tackling wildlife crime. This is an initial victory and calls for close monitoring so that wildlife criminals doesn’t get away with crimes.
On April 7, 2018, Konchiring Lama (white shirt in image), also known as Kunjok Lama, a noted kingpin tiger trader with strong link with Babariyas (nomadic community in India known for tiger poaching), Nepali transporters ( mostly used to transport tiger parts and products from India to Nepal) and Chinese businesses ( ultimate market for wildlife trade) was arrested in Banke district with pangolin scales. A local resident of Humla, Nepal Lama along with another Nepali was arrested with 1.5 kilograms of pangolin scales with the help of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police.
On April 23, acting on the charge sheet presented by the District Forest Office Banke, the District Court has remanded the case for further proceedings, and approved the request of the District Forest Office’s to apply maximum punishment for Lama’s alleged involvement not only in pangolin trade but his past engagements in trade of other wildlife species, particularly tigers. The Forest Office had requested for maximum punishment of 15 years of imprisonment and a fine of one million rupees. According to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act of Nepal, those convicted in wildlife crime of protected species listed in Appendix I of CITES and national list are liable to five to fifteen years of imprisonment or a fine of Rs 500,000 to one million rupees, or both.
The charge sheet submitted by District Forest Office, Banke, reads that Konchiring Lama who was arrested with pangolin scales is found to have been involved in trade of various wildlife in the past, part of organised crime of wildlife and using Nepal as a transit hub for wildlife trade between India and China. The analysis of the documents and information (including Call Link Analysis, CDR, and other documents) submitted by CIB in addition found a picture of tiger hides in Lama’s mobile phone. This all leads, to the CIB’s findings suggesting Lama as a kingpin in the tiger trade and his activities have been under close monitoring for some time now.
Now, after the District Court’s decision to remand an extended custody for Lama and further the process of convicting him of his crime. It may take some time, maybe several months or a year, but good news is that he will be in prison until he gets his final verdict.
This is a good start. There has been increasing concern over the poor investigation, prosecution and convictism of poachers and traffickers in the country. A case in a point is about Sanam Jayakar ( Jagari), a Nepali national connected with Indian poaching community and wildlife trader was arrested with a tiger hide in March last year in Kailali. The investigation from CIB had found his involvement in trade of tiger hides and body parts but the prosecuters and judges involved in this have freed him after paying Rs 50,000 only and serving one air jail-term. Interestingly to note that, the arrest of Jayakar, link with the Lambu Fariyad ( the kingpin tiger poacher and trader from Babariya community ) in India, and the now the arrest of Lama are interlinked. This also shows the network of how tiger trade operated between India and China with Nepal as a transit and sometimes source country.
Wildlife crime has been established as an organised crime, and the turn of events in Nepal in the recent past (either it be about the seizure of critically endangered chimpanzees, pangolin scales coming from African nations and heading towards China), have established the fact. Seizures are taking place, national and international arrests are being made, but when it comes to enforcement actions, convictions and punishments, the concerned bodies often fail to reflect the gravity of the underlying crimes. This results incases like Jayakar’s where a wildlife crime convict gets away with the crime.
We have evidences showing that even after proper investigation, prosecution and conviction of wildlife poachers and traders, the country, comes up short. In some cases it has been found that the prosecutors fail to treat wildlife crime as a serious matter.