Arrest of Fishing Cat poachers from Malda
23 and 28 October 2022
An excellent example of HEAL’s volunteer network facilitating law enforcement and apprehension of wildlife criminals is the recent incident of Fishing Cat poaching in Malda district. On 22 October 2022, HEAL members detected a photograph of a man flaunting an apparently battered Fishing Cat on Facebook.
Teammate Samar Chakraborty form West Medinipur, tracked the perpetrator and his accomplice in Aiho village, Malda. Immediately, on 22 October itself, our team reported the killing to the West Bengal Forest Department, placing on record all the evidence that could be garnered.
Acting on this written complaint, forest officials took swift action and arrested one of the poachers from their village on 23 October. Our team members from Malda, Jayanta Chakraborty and Tanmay Bakshi, were present on-ground during this operation. The forest officials continued to pursue the other culprit visible in the photograph on Facebook. Eventually, on 28 October, the second poacher was also apprehended.
Both the perpetrators were produced before the magistrate where they were denied bail and subsequently remanded to judicial custody. Ironically, this was the first record of the Fishing Cat from Malda. This population had not been detected even in the recently completed state-wide Fishing Cat survey by the West Bengal Biodiversity Board.
The Fishing Cat is not only a Schedule I species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 [WPA] but also the State Animal of West Bengal and a globally endangered species. As such it was imperative that the perpetrators be punished in accordance with the provisions of the Act in order to prevent such blatantly illegal activities in the future.