The Special Task Force (STF) of the forest department seized a 14-feet-long hide of a Royal Bengal Tiger, the skull and bones of the animal, from Hasimara near the Indo-Bhutan border in Alipurduar district last evening. Two Bhutanese citizens were arrested in this connection.

STF officers said that they acted on a tip-off and started tracking the movement of a group of wildlife smugglers, including some women, who came from Phuntsholing in Bhutan to Hasimara to smuggle the wildlife articles to Kathmandu.

They planned to sell them at Rs 32 lakh there. “We arrested two Bhutanese citizens when they were about to board a vehicle, but some of their women companions managed to flee. Preliminary investigations have revealed that they were staying in a hotel. It appears that it was a full grown male adult Royal Bengal Tiger, and the skin had two bullet marks. The skull of the tiger and 110 pieces of bones were also recovered,” said the chief of the STF, Sanjay Dutta.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the accused persons had taken the tiger parts to Gelefu in Bhutan from Assam, where they were staying before Durga Puja.

They stayed in Gelefu for three days and went to Phontshoeling in neighbouring Bhutan and then reached Hasimara. “It is suspected that the tiger was killed in Assam and that the group is associated with an international wildlife smuggling racket. They planned to sell those articles to one Kumar Rai in Kathmandu for Rs 32 lakh,” said a senior officer. The accused persons have been identified as Yongba Nanong and Namgay Wangdi. Forest officers said Mr Nanong was earlier associated with the Royal Bhutan Army.