Three Russian men have been arrested in Sri Lanka for illegally collecting and attempting to smuggle hundreds of endemic species.
The three men, identified as Ignatenko Alexander, Riyabo Artem and Kilufuyan Nicolai had rented a car and used an international drivers’ license to travel to multiple sites in the country to collect plant and animal specimens. According to the Sunday Times Sri Lanka, the men had already collected wildlife from several national parks before they were arrested at Horton Plains, where they were attempting to collect millipedes and centipedes.
The men had been temporarily storing the wildlife in different hotels until the were ready to smuggle them out of the country. They were found with 184 species in their car, including bees, butterflies and other insects and police recovered further specimens at a hotel in Hettipola.
The men have been remanded in custody and the court consented to a request by the Sri Lankan wildlife authorities that the specimens be released, or where not possible, deposited in the Peradeniya Institute of Biology and Animal Life.
Sri Lanka justifiably has strict laws for the protection of its wildlife. The island is rich in ecological diversity and home to many endemic species. Countries with a rich biodiversity are attractive targets for wildlife smugglers and it is believed that the Russian men are also suspected of committing wildlife crimes in India and Uganda.