The year that went by could have been remembered for being the year that Western Ghats became a world heritage site or the year when Asiatic Lions were no more considered Critically Endangered. But ruining the joys of all the positive is one scar constantly surfacing as a conservationist’s worst nightmare. 2012 recorded the largest number of killings of endangered animals in India making it the worst poaching year in the last decade.
According to various estimations last year a very high number of killings of wild animals took place, especially that of mega species like the tiger, rhino and leopard, by poachers.
Of the 69 tigers that died in 2012, 41 had fallen due to poaching. 39 one-horn rhinos too lost their lives in Kaziranga National Park in the northern state of Assam and 252 leopards were killed during the same period.
As per the last census conducted in 2011 India is home to 1706 tigers and more than half of world population of tigers resides in the country. But last year the life of all these tigers was under threat because of constant poaching.
In Maharashtra, a tiger’s mutilated body was found with its body parts chopped off and left scattered around different villages around the Tadoba national park.
(Read the stories here, Chopped Tiger found in Tadoba Tiger Reserve)
But poaching was not Maharashtra’s concern alone. Because India is blessed with a biodiversity where each state has sheltered landscape for tigers, all the 42 tiger reserves of the country were brutally ravaged by men with guns on the lookout for the national animal.
Out of 69 tiger deaths in 2012 only 28 were due to other causes like age, territorial fights and injuries. The rest of the big cats were healthy, and could have survived for many years if not for the poachers and poaching gangs that have now turned animal killing into an organized crime.
The major loss of lives was in the leopard family. 252 leopards were killed by poachers in 2012.
The leopard population of India is estimated to be around but present scenarios show that these cats do not really enjoy a very happy relation with humans. The leopard-human conflict has risen extraordinarily in the last few years. Be it in the North eastern states or down south, many leopards fall victim of the mob, when they accidently venture into human habitats.
The Assam floods washed away thousands of homes this year, but poachers used the cover of this natural calamity to loot the state’s natural treasures. In moments of panic when the animals of Kaziranga and Manas, ran to higher grounds for safety, the poachers killed them easily. Rhinos were left half dead with their horns chopped off.
Of the 2300 rhinos left in the country, 39 of these endangered animals, perished, because protectors were too far away to help in the deluge.
The Indian government blames shortage of manpower for the rise in incidents of poaching in India. This fact cannot be ruled out, but the lack of stringent wildlife laws and punishment given to the poachers, makes their task all the more easier.
As per WWF, wildlife trade is today worth $ 19 billion. It is an organized crime with least bit of risk and maximum profit. The organization found that rhino horns were sold at 30,000 USD per pound in the illegal markets. The lax implementation of wildlife laws in India only encouraged insurrectionists, separatists and extremists to access vast fortunes from unprotected forests.
Unless, wildlife crime is not tackled as seriously as acts or terrorism or other crimes on humans, the efforts put to conserve wildlife will go in vein.
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