In a joint operation, a team of Forest officials and Special Task Force (STF) personnel raided a private farm along the Western Ghats near Rajapalayam and seized skins of a leopard and two spotted deer on Tuesday night.

Based on a specific intelligence input, the team raided the farm of one Chandran near Ammankoil at Mudangiyar junction.

Though Chandran managed to escape, the team, led by Srivilliputtur Forest Range Officer, A. Palaniraj and the STF Inspector D. Karthikeyan, arrested the farm watchman, Kuppusamy. They also seized the hides.

“The leopard skin can fetch up to Rs. 10 lakh in the international market,” the Virudhunagar Conservator of Forests, Shekhar Kumar Niraj, said.

Mr. Palaniraj said the foul smell from the hide only pointed that the animal could have been killed around ten days back. “This is the first time in recent history that a skin of a leopard is seized in the Rajapalayam/Srivilliputtur ghat range,” he said.

Mr. Niraj said that in the last two months, they had seized skin and meat of spotted deer on five occasions and arrested 25 peopleMr. Niraj sought cooperation from the public in conserving wildlife and other natural resources. People could tip off any suspicious activity in the forest area by calling the office of Conservator of Forest on 04562-252158. The identity of the people would be protected, he assured.