Odisha is losing its leopards, wildlife to poachers

State’s Special Task Force alone has been seizing on average one leopard skin a month since 2020

Updated - January 08, 2022 07:08 pm IST

Published - January 07, 2022 07:03 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR:

Leopard skins seized in Odisha since 2020 indicates the average number of leopards poached in the State is rising. File

Leopard skins seized in Odisha since 2020 indicates the average number of leopards poached in the State is rising. File

The Special Task Force (STF) of Odisha Police’s Crime Branch has seized four leopard skins in the past ten days, and 25 since 2020. The seizures made by the STF alone indicate multiple big networks of wildlife offenders may be operating in the State’s forests.

If the State Forest and Environment Department’s seizures are taken into account, the number of leopards killed, and the average numbers poached, would be significantly higher. In October 2021, the Odisha Forest and Environment Department confiscated nine leopard skins in one case in Kalahandi.

According to the STF, a special drive against wildlife criminals and poachers was launched in 2020. Apart from 25 leopard skins, the agency has seized 13 elephant tusks, seven deerskins, nine live pangolins, more than 16 kg of pangolin scales, and arrested 55 persons on charges of crimes against wildlife.

“On the basis of reliable information, an STF team conducted a raid with the help of Deogarh forest officials on NH49 near Telibani in Deogarh district on January 6, as a result of which one wildlife offender, identified as Madan Kumar Jayapura, was apprehended,” the agency said. “During the search, one leopard skin, one elephant tusk and 1.770 kg pangolin scales and other incriminating articles were recovered from his possession.”

On December 29, one leopard skin was recovered from an offender.

On January 5, two criminals were arrested and two leopard skins and other incriminating articles recovered from their possession. The leopard skins were sent to the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun for chemical examination.

“Of late, both the STF and the Forest Department has been working in a coordinated manner and on a mission mode. The result is evident. The frequent seizures of leopard skins will have an impact on criminals in the future,” said Jai Narayan Pankaj, Deputy Inspector General of Police, STF.

But activists allege that the majority of wildlife crimes involving the poaching of leopards and elephants have gone undetected in the past few years.

Biswajit Mohanty, secretary, Wildlife Society of Orissa, an environmental pressure group, said, “The State has become a graveyard of wild animals. The leopard skins seized in last couple of years are just the tip of the iceberg. Criminals are operating with impunity.”

“Though there have been seizures and criminals have been caught red-handed, rarely have the cases ended in a conviction. Probably one conviction has been achieved in the past decade,” Mr. Mohanty said, adding that law enforcement agencies should make “watertight cases” to instil fear in the minds of wildlife criminals.

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