Pradeep Singh

Bhubaneswar: The rampant rise in illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife products seems to have touched alarming proportions in Odisha. Poachers, middlemen and traders involved in such activities are also believed to have become more active during the pandemic time than ever before.

While the slaughter of animals is being largely carried out by poachers to net huge returns, the movement of inter-state wildlife smugglers into Odisha to carry out the crime has raised grave concerns on the future of the fast vanishing fauna in the State.

In the last couple of years, the State has witnessed several incidents of elephants, leopards, pangolin and other animals being killed for tusk, skin, skulls, teeth and bones among others. Wildlife experts believe that huge funds have been pumped to carry out the massive, highly coordinated anti-poaching operations.

The forest department on Thursday, rescued seven bear cubs from the outskirts of Bhubaneswar which now seems to have emerged the main transit route for the entire smuggling cartel.

Kedar Swain, DFO, Chandaka range said that teams of the forest department is probing the matter and in case they fail, the chief wildlife warden will be urged to call for a crime branch probe into the case.

Besides, on the mystery related to the smuggling of the bear cubs, Honorary Wildlife Warden Subhendu Mallik said that there are bear farms in countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and China. “A single bear bile is sold at around Rs 50,000. Besides, bears’ gallbladders are also on high demand,” he said.

PCCF (Wildlife) in-charge Shashi Paul said that like human trafficking and narcotics, wildlife trade is also a big racket internationally. “Such rackets are not confined to a district or a state, as sometimes connections with other states and even countries are witnessed,” he added.

On the other hand, Odisha government today ordered a crime branch probe into the snake venom trafficking racket which was busted in Bhubaneswar last month. The crime branch probe has been reportedly necessitated following initial revelations about the involvement of a well-oiled syndicate in the massive trafficking operation having links with international cartels.