Two leopard cats and two lion cubs rescued while being reportedly smuggled to India have been sent to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Safari Park in Gazipur.
A case under the wildlife preservation act has also been started against the two alleged smugglers with Jessore’s Kotwali police station.
The two accused, Kamruzzaman Babu and Rana Bhuiyan, were sent to jail by a Jessore court on Monday evening.
Forest Department official Sarwar Alam told reporters: “The leopard cats could be rarely seen in Sylhet region’s hilly areas and in India’s Meghalaya, Assam and the tea gardens in Mizoram. But lions are not native to Bangladesh. We think they were brought in from overseas.”
Police investigation will have to find out how the cubs got here, he added.
Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Division’s Khulna division officer Modinur Ahsan told the Dhaka Tribune that this was the first ever attempt to smuggle lion cubs in the country to his knowledge.
He reckoned the two cubs would be two to three months old.
Acting on a tip-off, a police team found the animals in wooden boxes on a SUV during a stop and search in Jessore town’s Chachra check post around 10:30am on Monday.
Apart from arresting Babu and Rana, police had also impounded the vehicle, a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, the duo was using to smuggle the cubs.
In the afternoon, the animals were handed over to forest officials, who later sent them to the sanctuary in Gazipur.
Police said the animals’ estimated value could be about Tk4 crore in the black market.
Jessore’s Superintendent of Police Anisur Rahman told reporters that the two animal smugglers were delivering the cubs to a man at Sharsha, a town near the Indian border. “We suspect they were being brought here to be smuggled to India.”
During preliminary questioning, the smugglers confessed to receiving the animals in two boxes from one Jasim Uddin of Dhaka’s Uttara, said Sub-Inspector Syed Bayezid, in-charge of Chachra police check post.
“The duo was then told to deliver the cubs to one Idris in Sharsha upazila’s Samta village,” he said, adding that police have sought from the court five days to further interrogate them.
“We hope to find out more information including from where the cubs have been brought once we get the two smugglers in custody for remand,” Bayezid told the Dhaka Tribune.