Cassian Baliarsingh

The Special Task Force (STF) of Odisha Crime Branch on Wednesday arrested a wildlife smuggler after busting a racket involved in smuggling of tiger and leopard hide.

The STF seized skins of a Royal Bengal Tiger (RBT) and a leopard following interrogation of the arrested accused identified as Himalaya Dash.

According to sources, the accused was striking a deal of Rs 10 lakh to sell the RBT hide in Boudh. After receiving information from reliable sources, the STF along with the local forest officials conducted a raid and made the seizure.

During interrogation, the accused also revealed crucial information about smuggling of leopard hide, acting on which the STF managed to seize the leopard hide from Sonepur. However, the raid team is yet to arrest Himalaya’s aides and dealers who were a part of the deal. The seized Royal Bengal Tiger has been sent to Dehradun for examination.

It is pertinent to mention that the STF had seized hide of another RBT from Udala in Mayurbhanj district on December 14. The unabated rise in Royal Bengal Tiger poaching and smuggling of hides has become a matter of serious concern in Odisha.

When contacted, STF SP Kishore Kumar Panigrahy said, “This is an organised crime. Many others are also involved in this case and their names have been mentioned in the FIR copy. We will arrest everyone involved in the heinous crime. Now, only we have arrested one smuggler and he is being forwarded to court.”

Speaking about the seizure of 14 leopard and two RBT hides in 2022, he said, “Our effort is to bring an abrupt end to the poaching of RBT and leopards in the state. Whenever we receive any input, we conduct raids and make arrests. Effort is on.”

“Further probe is on. There is no report of link of any forest official in the smuggling. If any forest official is found involved in the case, we will not back off from taking action against such officials,” Panigrahy added.

(Reported By Alok Mohanty)