New Delhi, Feb 10 (ANI): Wild life activists and environmental groups have expressed concern over the increased threat to the wild buffalo, which is listed as an endangered species.
Recently, West Bengal forest officials seized a huge cache of endangered wild buffalo horns.
A total of 627 horns was found concealed underneath 16.8 tonns of coal from a truck in Chopra, Uttar Dinajpur district.
Three persons, including the truck driver, were arrested.
Trade of skin and other body parts also remained a potential threat to the survival of wild buffalo, which are estimated to be less than 4000 in the wild.
"We have sent the horn samples to the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) for confirmation. Circumstantial evidence points to the worse. If the horns belonged to domestic buffaloes, they need not have been hidden," said Utpal Kumar Nag, Assistant Divisional Forest Officer.
"We are trying to identify the destination where the horns were headed. The arrested persons have not been talking. They lack valid documents-even driver's licence," he added.
The truck was reportedly dispatched from Assam which is considered the last stronghold for the wild buffalo.
Historically found across north India bordering Nepal, east and central India, the wild buffalo is currently found in the northeastern states and in Chhattisgarh.
"There is no known use of wild buffalo horns. If the seized horns are confirmed to belong to wild buffaloes, this would perhaps be the first case of the kind," said Ashok Kumar, Vice-chairman, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI).
"Wild buffaloes already face severe threats due to habitat destruction, disease transmission and competition from domestic livestock among others. If trade is established as a threat, then this is serious and will have to be studied further," he added.
The wild buffalo is listed under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, that mandates a punishment of three to seven years imprisonment for poaching and trade.
It is also classified as "endangered" in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. (ANI)