Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, Jan 19: Two leopard pelts allegedly intended for sale at the Ganga Sagar mela were seized by forest officials in the Kakdwip area of South 24 Parganas District this afternoon.
Sunderbans Tiger Reserve director, Mr Pradip Kumar Vyas, said the animals appeared to be fully grown but not old.
He told The Statesman: “The skins still retain their youthful, healthy lustre. One of the leopards appears to have been killed recently as the skin still gives off his smell.”
Mr Vyas said forest officials had raided a hideout and seized the leopard skins after being given a tip off.
Sheikh Habib (25) and Mr Kaksa Mondol (30), both residents of South 24 Parganas, have been arrested in connection with the skins.
According to officials the men said during interrogation that contacts in Orissa had promised them more animal pelts in the future if they managed to sell these two.
Mr Vyas said preliminary investigation suggests the leopards were killed in the Mayurbhanj District of Orissa.
It is not the first time leopard skins have been seized in the Sunderbans delta, which is not the animal’s natural habitat. In 2006, at least five leopard skins were seized in two raids.
Officials said animal skins to be brought here to be sold because the delta’s proximity to the India-Bangladesh border.