Poaching of leopards for their skin and body parts is rampant across Odisha, which has seen over 150 of these majestic animals being killed in the last decade.
Recently, a new poaching racket has been unearthed by enforcement agencies in Odisha including, the forest department and Special Task Force (STF) wing of the state police. The officials have seized at least 10 leopard skins from five persons in three districts of the state, and have arrested all accused.
According to the Status of Leopards in India report, the population of leopards in the state was 760 in 2018. The numbers are rapidly declining as leopards are caught and killed by poachers when they come near human habitats looking for prey.
These animals are mainly hunted for their hide, bones and other body parts that are used in traditional medicine in the international market.
In the last one year, about 26 leopard skins have been seized by enforcement officials in Odisha. The STF alone has seized 15 leopard skins.
Leopards currently come under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.