- Union Environment Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan tweeted pictures of recoveries made during a joint operation by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) and the Odisha Forest Department — 28 kg sambar deer antlers, four bear nails, and a rock python. Plus, 34 pairs of what is commonly referred to as “hatha jodi”.
- Peddled as a rare plant root in shady occult shops and on e-commerce sites, hatha jodi is claimed to possess magical powers that ensure prosperity for its owner.
- But as Vardhan said, the 34 pairs were in fact hemipenises — the forked male reproductive organ — of the monitor lizard, one of India’s most threatened wildlife species.
- India is home to four varieties of monitor lizard — Agra, Yellow, Water, and Large Bengal. They are protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and their trade is restricted under Appendix 1 of the Convention On International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
- Monitor lizards share their Schedule 1 status with tigers, rhinos, elephants and leopards, and hunting or harming them can attract jail terms of at least 3-7 years; authorities, however, do not treat violations involving them as seriously as those involving the bigger creatures.