Smugglers arrested in illegal snake venom ring

Bangladesh, India – Six people have been arrested for attempting to smuggle more than $15 million US worth of snake venom across the border.

Officials say the six were suspected members of an international smuggling racket.

The snake venom was found hidden in school bags. The gang were riding on two motorbikes and carrying the school bags that contained three bullet-proof glass containers of the venom. The glass containers were stamped “Made in France”.

The men were arrested by police Saturday in Baikunthpur forest area of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal.

“This haul is worth at least 100 crore (US$15 million) on (the) international market. There are three different containers with venom in coco-cola liquid form, white crystals and yellow granule form,” P. R. Pradhan, divisional forest officer, Baikunthpur forest division told AFP.

Officials say they think the venom may have arrived from France then was picked up in Bangladesh before they tried to deliver it in Bhutan.

Wildlife experts say illegal trade of snake venom and skin is widespread with frequent recoveries reported across the country. Extracted snake venom is commonly used as an antidote for snake bites, which according to World Health Organization, kills an estimated half a million people globally every year.

The recovered venom is believed to be that of a cobra, however, tests are being done to positively identify the snake species.

“They are part of the international racket. The case is being investigated,” Meghariya told AFP, adding that they have been arrested under the Wildlife Protection Act which bans the extraction of venom from protected snake species, including cobras.

Under Indian law, milking of many snake species is allowed. Snake venom is also used in some cosmetics.

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