Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Czech nationals convicted for theft of butterflies

An Indian court convicted two Czech nationals, in custody since June 22, of illegally collecting butterflies in West Bengal's Singhalila National Park in violation of wildlife protection laws.
The Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) of Darjeeling Monday pronounced the two guilty of violating the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as well as the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, according to a statement issued here by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), an NGO helping the prosecution.
Czech nationals Petr Svacha and Emil Kucera were arrested June 22 from a hotel in Srikhola by forest officials. Hundreds of preserved and live insects as well as equipment were seized from them.
Although similar cases involving foreign nationals have been reported from India in the past, this is the first well-documented case where authorities have successfully tracked and arrested the accused, the statement said.
Investigating officer Arbinden Lepcha said: "We asked them to show the legal ownership certificate for the insects in their possession. As they did not have any permits, they were arrested and the insects seized under section 50 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act."
The insects have been sent to the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) for identification.
Kucera, a forester, has a website offering to sell insects, while Svacha is a senior scientist at the Institute of Entomology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (ASCR) and managing editor of the European Journal of Entomology.
Both said the insects were for research purpose. They had failed to register at the Foreigners' Registration Office, entered India on a tourist visa and did not possess permission for research, the statement said.
One of the witnesses, P. Mukhopadhyay, a ZSI scientist, had testified that a beetle species, Cucujus bicolor, that falls under the Schedule II Part II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, has been identified. Identification of the remaining specimens was on.

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