Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Chilika, Sep 11:
Horseshoe crabs—considered as living fossils for their origin dating back to 450 million years ago—could give a miss to India’s largest brackish water lake spread over three districts of Odisha: thanks to the poachers operating in Chilika.
If sources are to be believed, the Horseshoe crabs are being trafficked rampantly from here to outside state and further shipped to international locations for their therapeutic efficacy.
The marine arthropods are included in the Schedule-IV of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Environmentalists and wildlife enthusiasts have expressed concerns over the dwindling of the species.
It may be mentioned here that four species of horseshoe crabs are found world over, of which two are in India. In Odisha, the species which are actually not crabs are found in Chilika lagoon and Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary. A survey along the Odisha coast has identified the breeding grounds of the Horseshoe crabs, Tachypleus gigas and the availability locations for Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda.
The hard-shelled bottom-dwelling arthropods resembling a helmet live both in estuarine and continental shelf of the sea floor.
The biomedical industry uses an extract from the horseshoe crab’s blue, copper-based blood, known as limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL) to test the purity of medicines. Certain properties of this crab’s shell are also being used to speed blood clotting and to make absorbable suspensions.
Horseshoe crabs are used in medical research and it has come aided to a greater extent in eye research. Due to its medicinal value, it is commercially exploited for pharmaceutical use like preparing life saving and cancer drugs, medical experts opined.
Forty-five minutes of exposure to the crab’s blood is enough to reveal endotoxins from gram-negative bacteria which otherwise avoid detection, and is sensitive enough to isolate a threat the equivalent size of a grain of sand in a swimming pool, reports said.
The poachers sell the crabs to middlemen at a price ranging from Rs 5, 000-Rs 10, 000 per piece.
The crabs are being netted during night as they are not sighted during day time. Moreover, they are also being trafficked furing night on four-wheelers, sources added.