‘Track social media to check pangolin poaching’

Probe revealed accused trading online by forming WhatsApp groups: Odisha Forest Dept.

January 05, 2021 12:40 am | Updated 12:40 am IST - Bhubaneswar

Rampant poaching is pushing the endangered species towards extinction.

Rampant poaching is pushing the endangered species towards extinction.

The Odisha Forest department has stressed the need for stricter monitoring of social media platforms to check pangolin poaching and trading.

During past few years, instances of pangolin poaching have been reported at regular intervals from different parts of Odisha.

The Athagarh Forest Division in Odisha’s Cuttack district had tasted success in pinning down the active gang of pangolin smugglers during November 2019 and subsequently arrested more than 30 members of the organised network from different parts of the State.

“Investigations revealed that the accused were trading pangolin and scales online by forming WhatsApp groups in which videos and photos were shared with potential customers, often based outside the country, and details communicated in codes to conceal the transactions,” said Sasmita Lenka, former Divisional Forest Officer of Athagarh, who played a key role in detection of poachers’ networks.

Ms. Lenka said “trafficking of live pangolin and its scales is a highly lucrative business for organised mafia, who exploit poor and vulnerable forest dwelling communities for their criminal interests.”

She said this was pushing the endangered species into extinction and simultaneously placing these communities at high risk.

“While personal contacts and networks of grassroots markets run by middlemen used to facilitate wildlife trade, the cyber revolution has enabled widespread access to digital platforms since the 2000s, and consequently a sizeable chunk of wildlife trade started taking place through social media,” said the senior forest officer.

Videos and pictures

Athagarh forest personnel found that it was fairly easy to find videos and pictures of threatened and protected species of animals online.

Ms. Lenka blamed chronic field-level manpower shortage for poaching incidents.

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