In the latest interception of wildlife offence, the Special Task Force (STF) wing of Odisha police seized three leopard skins and arrested equal numbers of wildlife criminals in Sambalpur and Jharsuguda districts, officials said on Sunday.
The STF conducted simultaneous raids in both districts and nabbed the offenders yesterday with the assistance of local police, they said.
The poaching of these protected animals has shot up in Odisha with the seizure of around 60 leopard skins in the last two years. Of the seizures, the STF alone has accounted for the seizure of 36 skins.
The arrested persons were identified as Sumit Kumar, Krupa Sahoo, and Aditya Patra. They were about to strike a deal to dispose of the skin when the STF flanked by local police arrested them on specific feedback provided from the ground level, said, officials.
Poaching of leopards, a Schedule I animal under the Wildlife Protection Act, of 1972 that provides for absolute protection of the animals, has gone up in the State, posing threat to the protected wildlife species.
The arrested persons are being interrogated. It is being investigated to ascertain whether they were part of an organized wildlife trophy smuggling racket.