Kangaroos in Bengal and the sordid history of exotic animal trafficking


The presence of kangaroos here – found exclusively in Australia and New Guinea – is strong evidence of rampant trafficking in India, which is becoming a global hub for exotic pets.

Kangaroos are native to Australia and New Guinea. Photo: iStock

The discovery of a dead joey (baby kangaroo) and the tracking of three others from different parts of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal stunned the forest department and the people.

Forest officials are puzzled by the discovery of kangaroos in North Bengal, thousands of miles from their natural habitat in Australia and New Guinea. The dead joey was found at Nepali Bustee near Farabari district of Siliguri city during the day, and the living were rescued from Gajaldoba and Dabgram-Farabari on Friday evening. Last month, a kangaroo was rescued from a cargo truck in Barobisha of Alipurduar, along the West Bengal-Assam border, and two people from Hyderabad were arrested for marsupial trafficking.

A West Bengal forestry official said the rescued kangaroos were receiving medical attention. He suspects that the kangaroos could have been brought to India via Nepal. The official said the animals were likely transported in small containers inside cramped spaces; the moment the smugglers became aware of the security checks, they abandoned them on the side of the wooded road and escaped.

Several videos of kangaroos spotted by residents of Jalpaiguri have gone viral. One such video shows the kangaroos eating grass with people surrounding the unfortunate animal with their moving cameras.


One belief was that these kangaroos must have escaped from a nearby zoo, but Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Parveen Kaswan said no nearby zoos housed a kangaroo.

However, connoisseurs of animal smuggling aren’t surprised by the sighting of kangaroos in India. According to the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, between 2018 and 2020, around 2,054 cases were recorded for killing or illegal wildlife trafficking in India. During this period, 3,836 people were arrested for animal trafficking.

The Indian star tortoise is the most smuggled tortoise species in the world. India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have become major smuggling points, although international trade in the species is completely prohibited.

The India Smuggling Report 2019-2020, released by the Directorate of Fiscal Intelligence, says that since the trade in Indian cash is completely banned, smugglers have focused on exotic cash.

Legal gaps

According to a report by Mongabay-India, smugglers could take advantage of the voluntary disclosure scheme released in 2020 by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

The Voluntary Disclosure Program was an amnesty program under which Indians could declare possession of any alien living species. The notifier would not be required to provide any documentation relating to the alien species if it is declared within six months of the date the notice was issued, which was later extended to March 15. Over 30,000 Indians applied for permission. amnesty program until March, according to a report by IndiaSpend.

The amnesty program aimed to streamline the import process and compile an inventory of alien species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Wildlife smugglers might also have started using it to their advantage.

The presence of the kangaroos is strong evidence of rampant trafficking in India, which is a global hub for exotic pets, media outlets have said citing wildlife experts. A yarn science report indicates that the northeast border is the preferred route for smugglers.

Kangaroos are relatively new to the collection. Parrots, cockatiels, macaws, lovebirds, lemurs and rhinoceros iguanas are among the most popular exotic species, the report adds.


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