According to the forest department, at least 22 leopards are being poached in Odisha in a year.
The Odisha Forest Department and the Special Task Force (STF) together seized about 20 leopard skins in one year from 10 districts. STF seized 12 leopard skins, and forest personnel seized eight between May 20, 2020, and April 2, 2021.
The highest number of leopard skins were seized from Nayagarh district (4), followed by Nabarangapur (3), Mayurbhanj (3), Khurda (2), Dhenkanal (2) and one each from the districts Ganjam, Kandhamal, Bargarh, Sambalpur, Deogarh and Nuapada.
The increasing cases of poaching point the finger at the lack of attention given to the protection network, leading to a fast-dwindling of the wildlife population.
Leopards come under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. They are being poached for their skin, bones, and other parts of the body for various purposes, ranging from traditional medicines to international marketing. These animals are hunted and captured when they venture into areas of human settlement near the forest borders in search of prey.
Based on the Status of Leopards in India, 2018 report by the central government, the population of leopards in the state was 760. However, about 150 leopards were poached in the state in the last decade alone.
The number of poaching could be higher than this since the smugglers might have moved the animal to skins abroad or other neighbouring districts to escape the police.
Apart from the leopard skins, the STF also seized six elephant tusks, two deer skins, two live pangolins and 5 kg of pangolin scales. Pangolins are one of the most trafficked wild animals in the world.
The police also arrested 24 wildlife criminals in a period of one year, and a total of 13 cases have been registered by the STF against wildlife criminals.