Wildlife smugglers using Nepalgunj Airport as transitPolice say lax security at the airport is encouraging traffickers to move animal parts to Chinese market
Nepalgunj Airport is becoming a major transit point for traffickers to move wildlife parts to China, according to the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of Nepal Police.
The bureau officials said traffickers have been taking advantage of lax security at the airport to transport wildlife parts using domestic airlines that make daily flights to the mountain districts of Humla, Dolpa and Mugu. From there, the wildlife parts are trafficked via land to bordering Tibet before finally making it to Chinese market.
Nepalgunj Airport is the second most busiest airport of the country. There are seven to ten daily flights to Humla during peak season. And there are also regular helicopter charter service.
Pravin Pokharel, chief of the bureau, said most of the wildlife parts come from India via land and they end up in Tibet’s Taklakot. Limi Valley and Badgaun in Humla are said to be the last stopovers before the smuggled wildlife parts are transported to China.
“During our investigation, we found both local and international wildlife traders transporting mainly tiger skins and bones from India to Humla and to Taklakot in Tibet. And Nepalgunj Airport is the main transit point,” said Pokharel.
Between February 2015 and February 2016, police carried out 15 wildlife trafficking seizures, in which skins and bones of 14 tigers were recovered. Most of the tigers had been killed in India and at least four of them were killed in Nepal.
Nepalgunj Airport chief, Pratap Bahadur Tiwari, admitted to the security shortcomings, what with the limited resources they have at their disposal.
“We don’t have the equipment to screen the luggages, nor enough human resources to manually go through every luggage and container,” he said, noting that the airport needs screening equipment and individuals who can
operate them to heighten the security.
Maheshwar Dhakal, deputy director general at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, said it is a matter of great concern that traffickers are using the airport to smuggle wildlife parts.
“We are considering setting up a joint operation cell at the airport to stop wildlife parts smuggling,” Dhakal said.