UN Accolade For Odisha DFO Sasmita Lenka

In a first for India, a woman forest official, Sasmita Lenka has been awarded by the United Nations for her work in busting smuggling of Pangolins. Sasmita, who is posted as a divisional forest officer in Athgarh, Cuttack was felicitated with the United Nations Asia Environment Enforcement Award under the ‘Gender Leadership & Impact’ category.

The award was in recognition of her work in busting international smuggling racket in Athgarh and Khunnpunni. Her work led to the rescue of two live Pangolins and a dead one. A total of 28 smugglers were arrested in the case as they were trying to smuggle their catch to China, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Despite death threats, the forest officer has been actively involved in raising awareness among the public about Pangolins, its ecological importance and the threat it faces. During her tenure, she had also offered a cash reward of Rs 10,000 for extracting information about the smugglers.

Her efforts have helped mobilise villagers of almost 30 villages, who are now helping her in the conservation efforts. In fact, a lot of smuggling activities were checked due to the involvement of the villagers, who are readily passing on the necessary information.

Though elated to receive the honour from the United Nations, Sasmita Lenka believes her work is far from over. “I am glad that my work has been noticed. But, I shall continue to work until the Pangolins are safe from extinction,” she said.

The formal award ceremony will be held on February 17 on a virtual platform.

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