POACHING: Even as the nation is busy conducting the third synchronised national tiger census across the country, the death toll due to poaching tells a grim tale, with this year’s figures showing highest number of tigers killed in the last seven years.
According to Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), 39 tigers have fallen prey to poachers so far in 2013. The NGO, which works with government enforcement agencies throughout the country to fight poaching, states that this year’s toll has surpassed last year’s figure of 31, and also the previous high of 37 in 2006. However, the figure is strictly conservative as it does not take into account the confessions of poachers arrested by Maharashtra officials, which would take the toll to 51, crossing the highest ever recorded figure of 46 cases of poaching registered in 2005.
Additionally, WPSI also informs that the overall tiger deaths, including road accidents, natural deaths, electrocution, natural territorial conflicts besides poaching cases, is 76 so far in this year. However, the National Conservation Authority (NTCA), the apex tiger conservation authority in the country, puts the toll at a much lower figure of 64.
“Our data is based on field inputs and is correct,” states Program Manager of WPSI, Tito Joseph.
Speaking about the discrepancy between the two figures, Inspector General with NTCA, H. S. Negi, said that the NTCA and WPSI data on tiger deaths generally do not differ. For example, both NTCA and WPSI had recorded 89 tiger deaths in 2012.
NTCA officials say that the difference in data could be due to the delay in communication of figures from states as they often learn about tiger deaths quite late. An example of this is the NTCA figures of five cases of confiscation of tiger parts in 2013. However, this figure skips the three poaching cases involving seizure of tiger parts that were registered in Maharashtra.
In a recent arrest of 12 poachers during a joint operation by UP Police, forest department officials, and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), officials seized two tiger skins and skeletons. The two tigers were apparently killed just 2 km outside the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Amangad range.
The apprehended poachers, currently lodged in Nagpur jail, confessed to have poached at least 12 tigers in Vidarbha region since the beginning of this year. Further, a top trader named Sarju, who was nabbed in Delhi earlier in September, confessed to have trafficked at least 11 tiger skins from Amdi Fata (Ramtek) and Bhandarbodi near Nagpur. However, state forest officials have only reflected five tiger skins in their records.
“Though confessions of poaching of 11 tigers have come up, we have documented evidence of only three such cases. Unless we recover any tiger parts and know their source, we cannot officially record such tigers in the list of poaching incidences,” said VK Sinha, APCCF (wildlife), Maharashtra.
While Sinha admitted that it was “bad to lose tigers”, he also added that state officials “had done a good job at cracking the biggest network of tiger traders” in the country with the arrest of kingpin Sansar Chand in June 2005, who is currently lodged in Tihar jail.
“Till now we have nabbed over 30 tiger poachers. In fact, this may be for first time so many accused have been nabbed by any state,” added Sinha.
Speaking about the rise in poaching cases, WPSI’s Joseph said that most of the cases involved tiger deaths due to electrocution, carcasses with missing body parts, and seizure of bones, claws, and flesh.
“The spurt in tiger poaching indicates that demand for skins in international markets still persists despite global outcry. Another reason for more poaching cases being registered is due to better detection rate, and it is good that poachers are being arrested,” added Joseph.
2014 tiger census may
More Related Stories,