Baripada: The forest department personnel have rescued a live pangolin from Odisha's Mayurbhanj district and arrested four persons for their alleged involvement in smuggling the animal, an official said on Wednesday.

The accused were apprehended from Kuliana, close to Similipal National Park, on Tuesday when they tried to transport the animal to Kolkata, the forest official said.

The pangolin, weighing about 17kg, was rescued from a roadside 'dhaba' along the National Highway-18, the official said.

"Acting on a tip-off, a group of forest officials raided the 'dhaba' and the culprits, who had captured the animal from Similipal, were nabbed. A car and a jeep were seized," Baripada DFO Swayam Mallick said.

Pangolins or scaly anteaters have large, protective keratin scales covering their skin and are the only known mammals with this feature. The species now fall under the endangered list.

Mallick said the animal will soon be released in the national park.

The arrested persons were identified as Premkhela Murmu (42), Krushna Chandra Hansda(30), Pradip Kumar Mohakud (60) and Sarat Kumar Mohanta (20), he said adding that they were booked under various sections of Wildlife Protection Act.

The population of pangolin inside the Similipal is on the wane with the increasing number of poaching cases being reported, the official added.