At least 155 leopards have been poached across Odisha in the last 10 years
The Special Task Force (STF) of the Odisha Crime Branch recovered two leopard skins and bones at Ranapur in Nayagarh district and arrested a poacher on June 14.
The STF also recovered some photos where the poacher, Laxmidhar Nayak, a Panchayat Samiti member, and two other persons could be purportedly seen skinning the leopard in a forest. The police are on the lookout for the other two people.
“We disguised as regular customers and caught him red-handed in the Sana Maninag forest area. We seized two leopard skins and some photos. We will produce photographic evidence in court,” said Prasan Bhoi, superintendent of police, STF.
He added that seized skins and bones will be sent to Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, for chemical examination.
STF officials brought the accused to Bhubaneswar from Ranapur and are questioning him. More persons will be arrested in the case, added Bhoi.
“Preliminary investigation suggested that both leopards were shot down. The STF is investigating all angles to ascertain the exact location of poaching,” added Bhoi.
Leopards are protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Over the last 10 years, at least 155 leopards have been poached across Odisha. Leopards have been targeted by poachers for their expensive hides and other body parts.
The rise in poaching cases is also indicative of more demand from international illegal trade market, said environmentalist and secretary of Wildlife Society of Odisha, Biswajit Mohanty.
The illicit international demand for big cat skins, along with the trade in bones and other parts for use in traditional oriental medicine, continues to be the main reason for unrelenting poaching of these endangered cats.
There is virtually no market for either skins or bones of leopards within India. At least 260 leopards were poached in the country between 2015 and 2018, according to information given to parliament by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) two years ago, added Mohanty.
Leopards are regularly poached for their skins and body parts. At least 27 leopard skins were seized in Odisha in the last two years and as many as 35 men arrested, most of them in operations carried out by the Crime Branch.
Leopards often venture into villages and towns near forests, looking for a prey. That is when they are killed by poachers.
“There is also a lack of space for leopards due to expanding initiatives for agriculture and other forms of forest-based sustenance. These conditions have reduced the gap in man-leopard interface,” said Lala Aswini Kumar Singh, a former wildlife researcher, Odisha forest department.
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