Text by Nabarun Guha
Barak Valley in southern Assam serves as a destination and also a route of wildlife trafficking, recent events have indicated.
Lack of awareness on conservation, the encroachment of reserve forests, and a shortage of human resources, especially in the forest department, are also pressing challenges for the Valley.
Rampant hunting and selling of wildlife and its parts are common in Barak Valley, with animals like turtles, deer, and birds being the most common victims.
Despite the local extinction of multiple large mammals from the region, including three rhino species, the Valley has rich faunal diversity. Asian elephants are the only large mammals in the Valley, and they are in immediate danger of being wiped out from the region.
An elephant herd in Patharia Reserve Forest
Photo by Nazimur Rahman Talukdar
On a winter morning this past December, a person sat on the roadside outside the court compound in Hailakandi town in Assam’s Barak Valley with several animal body parts, intending to sell them. It piqued Amir Sohail Choudhury’s curiosity. Choudhury, a young research scholar from Assam University, was passing by that area.
Choudhury, a local of Hailakandi who is researching the population and conservation status of ungulates and primates in Barail Wildlife Sanctuary, could immediately identify the items put on sale. He identified remains of Indian muntjac, porcupine, old claws of Bengal tiger, two turtle shells, sambar and muntjac skin, snails, one vertebral bone of python, among others. Choudhury was particularly concerned with the source of the seller’s haul, particularly the tiger claws. Tigers are no longer reported in the Valley, named after the Barak River, the second largest river of northeast India, and comprising three districts: Cachar, Karimganj, and Hailakandi.
“When I asked the person who was selling the animal body parts about his source for items like the tiger claw, as they are not even found in Barak Valley, he said he procured these from Kaziranga. He said he is doing this for quite some time, and there are specific buyers for these items. He claimed that these animal parts have medicinal value and could even cure kidney stones and other types of pain,” Choudhury told Mo