In a major seizure of wildlife derivatives, forest officials of Odisha’s Nabarangpur district seized six leopard skins, a few leopard teeth and bear paws from five persons who were reportedly trying to sell them.
The undercover operation was conducted on Monday night following a nine-month surveillance on suspected wildlife derivatives trade, and the five were nabbed on the border adjoining Kalahandi district, officials said. While the five were later placed under arrest, three others who were also part of the suspected trade managed to escape, officials said.
“This could be the largest seizure of leopard skin in recent times,” Nabarangpur Divisional Forest Officer S Mallik said. “The skins are quite long and can be sold for Rs 5 lakh to Rs 6 lakh in international market.”
None of the arrested five are poachers, Mallik said. “They are primary buyers with whom 30 of our officials made contacts over the last nine months in the guise of buyers and managed to penetrate their cartel,” he said.
A case has been registered under Sections 39, 40, 44, 49(b) and 57 of Wildlife Protection Act. Leopard is a Schedule-1 animal, and buying or selling of the animal’s skin can attract seven years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 25,000.
Forest officials suspect the leopard skins came from Karlapat reserve forest in Kalahandi district.