BHUBANESWAR: Naraj in Cuttack district has emerged new ground for illegal trade of pangolin scales in Odisha. The place has come under the scanner of wildlife officials who suspect the involvement of more persons from the area in the syndicate. Officials of Athagarh forest division, who had bust a pangolin smuggling racket last month, said four out of six persons arrested in connection with the racket were caught from Naraj.
The Athagarh forest team which arrested two smugglers Santosh Das and Hadibandu Jena from Naraj area on January 17 for trading pangolin and its scales, also arrested the mastermind Mohammed Ali, with a dead female pangolin weighing around seven kg, on the day. Similarly, Tirthabasi Majhi who was arrested by Athagarh team on Tuesday along with Dillip Nayak has reportedly admitted that he works as a fish seller in Naraj fish market. “There is much evidence available regarding trading of pangolin scales in the area,” said DFO Sasmita Lenka. “As the area is close to both Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, it was easier for them to operate from there,” she added.
The DFO said while one of the accused had admitted that they were selling pangolin scales clandestinely along with fish in the market, Ali during his arrest had also come to Naraj barrage with the dead pangolin in a fish container. Forest officials who were investigating about their modus operandi said the smugglers were not selling any live pangolin. They were killing the mammal and selling its scales only. “The smugglers were selling the small scales in local market and smuggling the big scales outside Odisha, mostly to Kolkata.”
Another member of this racket who was helping Ali in transporting the scales to Kolkata is still at large, sources said. The DFO, meanwhile, said the reward that the Wildlife wing of Forest department had announced for people who inform about pangolin trade and its scales, has helped unearthing the racket.
“Santosh and Hadibandu were arrested through this means only,” the DFO said, adding.