Berhampur, Oct 19 (LocalWire): Forest officials have seized over 6.5 quintals of red sandalwood worth several lakhs from an abandoned community house at Bhimpur village under Mahendra forest range in Gajapati district.
However, no one has been arrested in this connection during the raids conducted on Saturday.
Acting on a tip-off, forest officials raided the community house, which lay abandoned. During the raids, they found as many as 18 red sandalwood logs, weighing around 661 kg from the house, said divisional forest officer (DFO) Paralakhemundi S K Behera.
The endangered species might have been stocked in the house for the purpose of the smuggling, forest officials suspect.
While the forest officials were tight lipped about the value of the seized red sandal wood, unconfirmed reports said it would be worth several lakhs of rupees. Since there were no claimants of the seized articles in the village, no was arrested in this connection so far, said the DFO.
“Inquiry is being done as to who has stocked the red sandal wood in the house, he said.
After the arrest of the accused persons, we can ascertain the source, destination and procurement of the logs,” he said.
The DFO however did not rule out the possibility that the logs belong to the red sandal wood forest in Gajapati district.
Since the red sandalwood trees are abundant in Gajapati district, particularly in Garabandh and Mahendra ranges, located in the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border, the smugglers were desperately trying to illegally transport the valuable woods from the district.
The red-sandalwood tree cover area in Gajapati district is over 1200 acres in different forest areas, which was planted in 1919, sources said. Besides Gajapati, it is also largely found in Andhra Pradesh.
Red sandalwood, which comes under the endangered category of wild flora and fauna is in high demand in the international market, mainly in China. It is used for preparing medicines, handicraft items, furniture and perfume. The wood is generally smuggled to China via Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal and Nepal, forest officials suspected.
Trade of red sandalwood is prohibited by the Convention of International trade, officials said.