We send our best wishes to everyone in what is a difficult time for all and our sincere thanks to those who have helped WildTiger in the last few months. Covid-19 has meant many change in line with the elements of our work, #AntiSnare, ‘Living with Big Cats’ coexistence strategies (including early learner’s wildlife classes) and Ecosystem Reboot. Our commitment is absolute, constantly evolving as we move forward. The circumstances have meant new approaches being adopted and we will bring you these as we continue our work and plan for the remainder of 2020 and what looks to be another challenging year in 2021.
WildTiger is increasing its capacity in case follow up in which we work alongside appropriate authorities and agencies. A current high priority is the case involving the recent arrest of accused wildlife trader Kunjok Lama who is allegedly linked to the deaths of 100s of big cats. Please read the timeline and key points below.
Kunjok Lama was named in numerous seizures of tiger parts in Nepal and India, and was finally caught in Kathmandu on 25 June. But like high profile smugglers caught in the past, he may be released soon by Nepal’s courts. (Image and caption courtesy Nepali Times).
- 2005 – A seizure of 5 tiger skins, 36 leopard skins and 113kg of big cat bones in Rasuwa District, Nepal, made international headlines. Five smugglers were arrested and all mentioned the name of Kunjok Lama
(aka Kunjok Tsering Tamang) as being the ringleader of trafficking of big cat body parts.
- Further inquiry indicated that Kunjok Lama had been mentioned in wildlife crime cases starting in 1999 in India at which time he became a person of interest for Interpol.
- The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in India has since claimed that Kunjoc Lama (acting as ringleader) is associated with the poaching of over 600 big cats.
- After 15 years of continued investigation the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal arrested Kunjoc Lama in Kathmandu on 25 June 2020.
- Documentation was submitted to the Rasuwa District Court by the CIB. and Kunjoc Lama was remanded in custody after a request for bail was declined.
- Kunjoc Lama subsequently petitioned the Patan High Court for release on the grounds he is falsely accused and his name is Kunjok Tsering Tamang, not Kunjoc Lama.
- On 14 July the Patan High Court requested submission of relevant documentation from the Rasuwa High Court. Due to the complications of covid-19 plus several requests for deferment from Kunjoc Lama’s lawyer the petition was not heard by the Patan High Court.
- On 20 October a habeas corpus petition was filed by Kunjok Lama in the Supreme Court (Nepal). The accused is claiming he is being detained illegally. The possibility of a special Supreme Court bench being formed to hear the case before the end of October has been announced depending on judicial review of documents submitted in reply to the petition. The writ in part seeks permission for release so as to prepare case defense. This action is significant as in a previous case Nepali national Lodu Dime was arrested in March 2018 and granted release as a result of a similar petition whereupon he absconded and has since remained at large. In a further development an associate of Kunjoc Lama, Nepali national Nitup Lama has been issued an Interpol Red Notice (15 October) as a fugitive at large charged with crimes against wildlife. The CIB have stated that Nitup Lama is a key associate of Kunjoc Lama in the involvement of wildlife trafficking and are currently preparing a letter of reply to the Supreme Court containing compelling evidence as to why Kunjoc Lama’s petition should be rejected.
- Updates on high profile wildlife traffickers Lodu Dime and Nitup Lama are currently being prepared.
- WildTiger will update as developments continue and there are upcoming publications in collaboration with other agencies with regard to this case within the overall scope of wildlife poaching/trafficking in South Asia.
WildTiger publicly states its support for the CIB in its efforts for prosecution of Kunjoc Lama for serious and ongoing wildlife crime. The arrests of high profile traffickers are rare and this is an important test case as well as being vital for the protection of tigers, leopards and other wildlife at a time where poaching is rife in South Asia. The absconding of another high profile trafficker, Lodu Dime (as mentioned above), under the same petition procedure raises serious concerns as does Supreme Court intervention before there was a verdict by the High Court regarding Kunjoc Lama’s request for release. As mentioned above the link between Kunjoc Lama and other high profile traffickers suggests his prominent role in the network. The Red Notice as issued by Interpol for Nitup Lama comes as a result of intensive investigation by the CIB. Nitup Lama’s link to Kunjoc Lama is within CIB documentation.
An article by the Nepali Times shortly after Kunjoc Lama’s arrest is titled:
We thank those who support our work at this critical time. To assist or to inquire please email email@example.com in the first instance. The full website will be republished once the situation stabilizes but our work on the ground has been streamlined and intensified in response to the situation. Social media updates are available mainly at the Twitter site @WildTigerNews and sporadically at the Facebook site Living with Big Cats.
WildTiger is a private sector organization currently registered in Australia (ABN 13817104075)