Himansu Shekhar Rout

The Special Task Force (STF) of the Odisha Police Crime Branch on Wednesday seized hides of two leopards in Rayagada district. The police arrested two persons in connection with the matter. 

The accused have been identified as Bikram Majhi and Raja Majhi, residents of Bijapur village under Chandrapur Police limits in Rayagada. 

As per reports, at a time when leopards are reportedly unleashing terror in the Dharam Bandha section of Nuapada district, the seizure of two hides points to the poaching of the big cats in Rayagada, though it was not confirmed where the animals were killed and hides came from.

Acting on a tip-off that deals for leopard skins were underway, the STF officials conducted raids in an area under Chandili Police Station in Rayagada on Tuesday. They arrested two persons along with two leopard skins. 

Speaking to the media about the seizure and arrest, SP of the STF, KK Panigrahi said that two leopard skins were seized from the two accused after they failed to produce necessary documents in support.

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Panigrahi also stated that a case has been registered against them under various sections of the Wildlife Protection Act-1972 and the seized skins would be sent to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in Dehradun for laboratory tests. 

“The accused were produced in the SDJM court today. Since 2000, we have been carrying out special drives against wildlife criminals and wildlife smuggling. To date, we have seized 45 leopard skins during raids,’ he added. 

Meanwhile, the STF has started an investigation into various angles: How they procured the leopard skins? Were they acting as middlemen or have they poached the animals themselves?