A joint team of Wildlife protection personnel claimed to have busted a leopard skin smuggling syndicate in Kalanandi district on Saturday.
Three leopard skins and two nails of the big cats have been recovered so far, officials said, adding that four members of the syndicate have been arrested for possession of the wildlife products.
Acting on a tip-off from a buyer of wildlife products from outside the State, a joint team of wildlife officials from Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Central Wildlife Crime Control Bureau conducted a raid and arrested the smugglers in Kalahandi while they were striking a deal to sell the leopard skins and nails.
The accused have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Wildlife Protection Act. Efforts are on to ascertain the possible involvement of other people in the smuggling syndicate, officials said.
According to sources, the illegal wildlife product trade has been growing in the area for many years with crime syndicates making big bucks from the killing, smuggling, and selling of protected animals like leopards and other endangered species.
Wildlife experts say leopard body parts are in great demand in Asian countries. They are hunted for their skins, bones and other parts which are used in traditional medicines.
Those involved in the trade are highly organised criminal syndicates that run a large supply chain, ranging from the forest dwellers who kill the animals to transporters, smugglers and ultimately the buyers.