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  Times of India 22 Sep 06
Rare species ending up in Indian school labs

Science laboratories may soon become the only place where one would be able to see marine and terrestrial species, if schools and colleges across the country continue to illegally source their specimen from 'suppliers' trading in them.

Endangered marine and jungle species are rapidly disappearing from the food chain because schools and colleges across the country are illegally buying and stocking these for their students.

Most of the animals are reportedly brought in from Chennai and the Andamans. The chief wildlife wardens there have now been alerted and some arrests have already taken place.

Revealing this, an Uttar Pradesh forest department official told TOI, "We now plan to begin raiding schools and colleges for these items. Most of these species are in Schedules 1 and 2 of the Preservation of Wildlife Act, and their killing is punishable with imprisonment."

The young ones of crocodiles, vipers, hammerhead sharks, monitor lizards, olive ridley turtles, star fish, stingrays, sea horses and other species are killed by drowning in chloroform. These are then preserved in jars containing formalin solution for public school students to identify during examinations.

The issue came to light on September 13 when, acting on a tip-off, the police and forest department raided the home of alleged kingpin Brijesh Upadhyaya in Agra's Kailashpuri area, from where a firm called Professional Couriers allegedly operates.

It had delivered five adult cobras, 97 young cobras and 97 olive ridley turtles, preserved in formalin. Six persons were arrested in connection with the racket but Upadhyaya, a qualified zoologist operating in Agra since at least 1998, escaped.

Checking a godown at the same place on Tuesday, forest officials and wildlife activists found a much larger stock of preserved cobras, crocodiles, vipers, sharks, ridley turtles, sea horses, octopuses, star fish, stingrays, rabbits, parrots and other species.

Agra area wildlife warden Dharam Singh Yadav said, "We have collected a lot of information about this large-scale racket operating from Agra. Getting their 'supplies' from southern India, local suppliers have been distributing these all over the country. We will carry out a much larger clampdown after we catch Upadhyaya."

A forest department official said, "The tragedy is that educational institutions and bodies organising examinations do not discourage this."

Related articles on Global issues: biodiversity and wildlife trade
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