Man held with pangolin could be linked to wider trafficking network:
28 June 2020

India: Two days after the Chhattisgarh Police arrested a man with a rare pangolin species from Gariaband district, it confirmed that the suspected smuggler was also from Odisha’s Nuapada district, as were the two other alleged poachers who were arrested with pangolins nearly a fortnight ago.

The police arrested 28-year-old Pitambar Kata Friday with a live pangolin — an endangered, ‘scaly anteater’ mammal — from the Kulhadighat forest area, which borders the state of Odisha.

“Pitambar was arrested, following a tip-off by an informer, as he waited for a client to hand out the rare pangolin species kept in a sack. The pangolin was immediately rescued and given to the forest officials to leave it back in the wild while the man was sent for judicial remand after being presented in the court Saturday,” Gariaband Superintendent of Police Bhojram Patel told ThePrint.

However, the police confirmed that Kata has not yet confessed to his crime, and that he could be part of a wider wildlife trafficking network.

“It appears that the seized pangolin was netted by the poacher from nearby Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve that lies between the two states. It’s also a Naxal-infested belt and the village where the arrest was made lies on the hilltop,” said Bhushan Chandrakar, SHO at the block Mainpur, who led the team that made the arrest.

Chandrakar added, “Kata could be a part of a wider wildlife smuggling network in the country as some vital information have been accessed by the police that cannot be divulged now.”

Pangolins recently made headlines because initial reports suggested that the Covid-19 virus may have come from these rare mammals. The first case of coronavirus was recorded in the wet markets of Wuhan in China, where live animals including pangolins were traded.

(Source: The Print)