Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

Smug­gling na­tional wildlife; Rus­sians re­manded

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Pix and text by Shel­ton Het­ti­aarachchi

Three Rus­sians are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for or­gan­ised smug­gling of en­demic an­i­mals and in­sects and in­ver­te­brates from Sri Lanka af­ter be­ing ar­rested with a haul of crea­tures they il­le­gally col­lected.

The Rus­sian sus­pects are iden­ti­fied as Ig­natenko Alexan­der, Riyabo Artem and Kil­fuyan Ni­co­lai.

At­tor­ney C Per­era ap­peared for the sus­pects who were due to leave Sri Lanka on Fe­bru­ary 25.

They were ar­rested for at­tempt­ing to smug­gle 500 en­demic wildlife.

The three Rus­sians had col­lected en­demic species from na­tional sanc­tu­ar­ies in­clud­ing forests in Habarana, Badulla, Gini­gath­hena, and Jaffna. They have col­lected sam­ples of plant species to ex­tract rare genes from plants in trop­i­cal forests. They have at­tempted to col­lect in­sects and in­ver­te­brates such as cen­tipedes and mil­li­pedes from Hor­ton plains.

The Rus­sians had ar­rived in Sri Lanka in early Fe­bru­ary, ob­tained an in­ter­na­tional drivers’ li­cence and hired a ve­hi­cle to reach var­i­ous lo­ca­tions.

They sys­tem­at­i­cally or­gan­ised and stored the sam­ples of bi­o­log­i­cal species and trans­ported them to ho­tels where they tem­po­rar­ily stayed.

The po­lice ar­rested the Rus­sians at Hor­ton Plains. Seven va­ri­eties of rare in­sects had been found in their pock­ets.

For­est of­fi­cers had tailed their ve­hi­cle, and found bees, but­ter­flies, and in­sects — 184 species in to­tal.

Park Ranger, Pradeep Ku­mara checked the wildlife and pro­duced the sus­pects and the wildlife be­fore the Nuwara Eliya Mag­is­trate on Fe­bru­ary 26, 2020.

Searches were also done in Het­tipola, where some species and equip­ment were found.

The sus­pects were re­manded un­til March 3.

The court con­sented to a re­quest by wildlife of­fi­cers that the wildlife be re­leased, that sam­ples be clas­si­fied, listed and branded by mu­seum au­thor­i­ties and the Per­adeniya In­sti­tute of Bi­ol­ogy and An­i­mal life and that the chem­i­cals the Rus­sians used be an­a­lysed by the Gov­ern­ment An­a­lyst.

The mag­is­trate re­manded the Rus­sians un­til March 12. The ve­hi­cle was seized.

Hor­ton Plains Na­tional Park Ranger, Pradeep

Ku­mara with the con­cur­rence of the di­rec­tor of the Cen­tral Prov­ince Wildlife N G Wick­ra­matil­lake, had re­leased the wildlife af­ter Prof Deepthi Wick­re­mas­inghe from Uni­ver­sity of Colombo, and Dr Sam­path Ten­nekoon clas­si­fied them. The wildlife were re­leased in Si­giriya, Ki­t­ul­gala, Gini­gath­hena, Yala and Bun­dala.

Mr Ku­mara said the Rus­sians are also sus­pected to be in­volved in wildlife smug­gling in Uganda and In­dia.

Wildlife of­fi­cials, P M T Panawalage, T P Da­yaratne, K G P Priyadar­shana in­clud­ing the man­ager of the Hor­ton sanc­tu­ary, Pradeep Ku­mara, Deputy, T P Da­yaratne, K G T Udayaku­mara and driver Chan­dralal were in­volved in the search.

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 ??  ?? The three Rus­sian sus­pects and be­low po­lice with the haul of wildlife species
The three Rus­sian sus­pects and be­low po­lice with the haul of wildlife species
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 ??  ?? Some of the wildlife species the sus­pects at­tempted to smug­gle
Some of the wildlife species the sus­pects at­tempted to smug­gle

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