Athagarh Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Sasmita Lanka has been felicitated with United Nation’s Asia Environmental Enforcement Award. She is the first Indian to receive such an award.
Ms Lanka, who is now posted as deputy conservator of forest in the Bhubaneswar district headquarters, received the award under the ‘Gender Leadership and Impact’ category for her work in help in busting pangolin smuggling rackets in the state, ANI reported.
Ms Lanka has helped in busting an international network of pangolin in Athgarh and Khunnpunni.
“We have seized three pangolins, including a dead one, and arrested 28 smugglers. The pangolins were being supplied to China, Vietnam, and Myanmar for black marketing…I’m glad my work was noticed. But it’ll only stop once the pangolin is saved from extinction,” Sasmita said.
She also conducted many awareness campaigns among locals about the illegal trade of pangolins.
To bust the racket, she offered a reward of ₹ 10,000 for information about suspects. “Residents across 30 villages reached out with information. The initiative received a huge response, and we took action against several criminals based on this information,” Ms Lanka said.
She said the majority of locals were not aware that pangolins exist in the vicinity, but awareness about the animal and strict action taken by the administration helped change the people’s mindset.