In the latest crackdown on wildlife offenders, the Special Task Force (STF) of Crime Branch on Friday arrested a man near Balichua village under Sarat police station jurisdiction of Mayurbhanj district and recovered around 5 kilograms of pangolin scales from his possession.

On a tip off, the STF personnel flanked by local forest officials conducted a raid and nabbed the accused Suren Purty.

“During the search 4 kg 820 gms pangolin scales and other incriminating materials were seized from his possession. The accused person could not produce any valid authority in support of possession of pangolin scales. He was later arrested and handed over to forest officials for necessary legal action at their end. Investigation is continuing”, said Deputy Inspector General of Police, STF, Jay Narayan Pankaj.

The India pangolin figures in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species. It is trafficked for its scales and meat which is much in demand in China, Vietnam and south-east Asian countries.

The smuggling of these threatened species had become rampant particularly in forests of Athgarh division in Cuttack district and Mayurbhanj district.

Sources said Pangolins have a thick layer of protective scales made from keratin, the same material that makes up human fingernails and rhinoceros horns. Scales account for about 20% of the animal’s weight. When threatened, pangolins curl into a ball, using the scales as armor to defend against predators adding the scales are sold in lakhs.

The STF in its drive against wildlife offences has arrested 27 wildlife criminals in the past one year. The wildlife trophies seized during the operation included among other things 14 leopard skins, nine elephant tusks, two deer skins, three live pangolins and ten kilograms of pangolin scales.