Thank Indian Government for Protecting Tigers

Target: Jayanthi Natarajan, Honorable Minister for Environment and Forests

Goal: Thank Indian government for extensive tiger conservation efforts

The tiger population in India has been decreasing at an alarming rate over the past 100 years, with 40,000 wild tigers roaming the landscape in the early 20th century, to only 1,700 dotting the landscape today. However, the Indian government has made great strides recently to protect tigers and increase population numbers through tiger reserves, punishing poachers with imprisonment and fines, and through effective patrolling strategies. According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India, “13 tigers were hunted in 2011 as opposed to 30 in 2010, a decline of 57 percent.” We should applaud the government of India for all of their efforts in protecting these magnificent big cats.

As the largest of all the big cats, tigers are an endangered species due to years of poaching, retaliatory killings, and habitat loss. Human population growth and industrial projects have squeezed tigers out of their natural habitat; they are being confined to smaller and smaller areas and are increasingly exposed to humans who kill them out of fear or revenge. In just over a century, 97% of wild tigers were wiped out worldwide, with approximately only 3,200 remaining today.

Poaching for a tiger’s body parts is a serious problem threatening tigers worldwide. It costs just a little over a dollar for the poison to kill them, and just $9 for a steel trap. Killers are paid around $15 per tiger. Various body parts, such as bones, are used in traditional Chinese medicine, and can fetch upwards of a thousand dollars for a medium sized bottle of tiger bone wine. Their skins alone can sell for $35,000.

Such high demand has resulted in many tiger killings in China and other Asian countries. As a $20 billion black market, it is one of the most lucrative in the world, second only to the drug trade. After depleting their own tiger population in the mid-1980′s, China started poaching tigers in other regions such as Northern India. However, India has resisted and is fighting to protect its tigers.

India is doing a wonderful job to save tigers. There are 39 preserves set up across India to protect tigers and their natural habitat. There are undercover operations to bring poachers to justice, and there are several educational and wildlife organizations solely dedicated to protecting tigers. Please sign the petition and thank the Indian government for their multi-strategic approach towards saving and increasing the tiger population.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Honorable Minister Jayanthi Natarajan,

Thank you so much for India’s conservation efforts towards protecting tigers. India’s tiger population had been decreasing for a while at an alarming rate, but because of your country’s efforts, the number of poached tigers went down from the year 2010 to the year 2011. It is wonderful to see a country so involved in helping to save this beautiful big cat species.

Though 2012 statistics have not been calculated yet, I am hopeful that because of your ongoing conservation efforts and various strategies, the poaching numbers will be even lower. Your willingness to take such an active role is appreciated and we applaud India’s government for dedicating their time and resources to such an important issue.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Rennett Stowe via Flickr

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21 Comments

  1. Daniela Bress says:

    Are you kidding?
    Tiger reserves are empty, without a single tiger because of corrupt officials payed by poachers.

    There are only a few idealistic policeman in India who are trying to save the few remaining tigers!

  2. Stephanie Chan Stephanie Chan says:

    That’s horrible if that is true!! Besides researching online, saw a documentary and the undercover sting was by an Indian organization doing a sting on tiger poaching. The equipment seemed state of the art. And several wildlife organizations (U.S. based included) have applauded India for their recent strides. If you are correct, all I can do is make a sad face, because EVERYONE loses, especially the Tigers.
    thanks for feedback.

  3. Daniela Bress says:

    Unfortunately, it’s true; in some reserves animal protectors couldn’t find any tigers for month, now – these places were like a supermarket for poachers and traders, because they were not regularly controlled. Employees were even forced to falsify the numbers of counted animals.

    People trying to protect this species were killed and the tiger fur-mafia spreads fear and terror in order to make their businesses.

    I’m sorry, I wished there was a reason to thank anyone for real good news, but if this continues, there will be no wild tigers in a few years anymore.

  4. Stephanie Chan Stephanie Chan says:

    That is awful, extremely awful. Hmmmmm… so just wondering. How do you propose we save tiger species in India? Just interested in your thoughts and ideas.
    On a side note, though, Indian still seems the most willing (compared to other countries such as China and don’t get me started there) to take steps to actually conserve the tiger. From what you mentioned, it seems pretty flawed, but if a country is at least willing to implement programs or have laws such as their Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, it does show effort and concern to do the right thing. Maybe they just need more manpower for the fur-mafia or citizens to also try to help out? thanks for your comments,
    stephanie

  5. yes Indian Government is doing good job that is why Peocock(National Bird), Leopards,Rhino ,Elephants are killed like cockroach every month.

    • Daniela Bress says:

      Even when the situation of wildlife and environment worldwide is such a sad one because of our imbecilic human society, I really like your sarcasm and let me thank you for your detailed explanations, Jaya.

      My informations are similar that’s the reason why I commented the way I did, so thanks again and greetings, Daniela

  6. Kaziranga loses two more rhinos to poachers

    TNN | Sep 27, 2012, 06.03AM IST

    JORHAT/GUWAHATI: Poachers are taking advantage of the inundation of Kaziranga by floodwaters and are killing one-horned rhinos with impunity in and around the park. A vast portion of the national park, a world heritage site about 250km from here Guwahati, remains submerged due to the ongoing spate of floods.

    On Wednesday, two rhinos were killed and their horns chopped off by poachers when they strayed out of the park to escape the floodwaters. One of the killings was gruesome as the rhino’s horn and a part of his ear were cut while the animal was still alive. It was a rerun of a similar poaching of a female rhino in January 2008. The male rhino’s carcass was later found by forest guards at Parkupahar area in Karbi Anglong hills, adjoining Kaziranga. Forest officials found the carcass of the other rhino killed on Wednesday with the horn missing at Gotonga area in Bagori range of the park. Poachers attacked the rhino while the animal was taking shelter at an elevated place after escaping the deluge inside the park.

    The Wednesday killings occurred barely four days after another rhino was shot dead by hunters in the periphery of Kaziranga.The park has lost four rhinos within the span of a week. The death toll due to poaching has reached 14 this year alone. In June, two rhinos were killed by poachers when the animals strayed outside of the park during the first wave of floods.

    “Poachers are always on the prowl for rhinos during floods. When the animals move out of the park in search of elevated ground, they became easy target for poachers. Despite stepping up our vigilance, poachers have managed to kill the rhinos,” a park official said.

    The official added that a close watch is being maintained on five rhinos still sheltered in the forested areas of Karbi Anglong hills.

    This time, Kaziranga experienced the worst floods in the past eight years. Nearly 700 animals, including 19 rhinos, perished in the first wave of the deluge in June this year. The floods have also disturbed the anti-poaching mechanism, making patrolling difficult. Almost 80 per cent of the 430 sq km park is still under water. About 114 of 152 anti-poaching camps have been submerged and 14 camps had to be shifted to different locations following the rise in the water level in the park.

    The spurt in rhino deaths has triggered a volley of protests from different organisations. The All Assam Students Union (Aasu) and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) took to the streets at Kaziranga on Wednesday, shouting slogans against chief minister Tarun Gogoi and forest minister Rockybul Hussain for their failure in curbing poaching. Aasu demanded a CBI inquiry into frequent cases of rhino poaching, while the AJYCP blocked NH-37, which passes through the southern boundary of the park, for a while.

    Soumyadeep Dutta of Nature’s Beckon, a conservation NGO, said that the rise in rhino poaching showed poor monitoring on the animals once they leave the park during floods.

    “Floodwaters are bound to affect Kaziranga. Rhinos and other animals comes out of the park during floods in search of elevated ground. Had there been a proper monitoring exercise and strengthening of security in peripheral areas of the park, such deaths could have been avoided,” Dutta said.

  7. A jumbo riddle

    Sandeep Mishra | September 22, 2012

    When the Odisha government announced an increase in the elephant population in the state three months ago, quite a few were surprised. The findings showed 1,930 pachyderms now lived in the state, compared to 1,886 two years ago. Paradoxically, Odisha has on an average been losing one large mammal each week, leading wildlife experts to question the government’s figures.

    Although Odisha accounts for a significant number of the total elephant population in the country, elephants lead a precarious existence in the state. In May this year, a group of wildlife activists claimed that they had uncovered an instance of mass killing of elephants when they found remains of four large mammals inside Similipal tiger reserve. Only a month before that, in April, a forest staff had found a dead female elephant inside the reserve. Ten elephants died in Simlipal in 2010, following which a National Tiger Conservation Authority-constituted committee submitted several recommendations to the government. “The state has implemented very few of the recommendations we made,” says noted wildlife activist Biswajit Mohanty, who was a member of the committee. He also refuses to accept the government’s latest elephant census figures. “No statistical check was conducted. We don’t agree with such claims,” he says.

    So how does the government justify the figures? Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), J D Sharma, points out that while elephant deaths are taking place, births are also being recorded. “Inter-state migration, especially from Jharkhand, has also increased.

    We believe at least 25 elephants have moved into Keonjhar and Sundergarh districts from outside because the condition of forests in our state is comparatively better than that of our neighbours,” he says. “The population of tuskers vis-à-vis females in Odisha is the best in the country, leading to better growth rate of the animal,” he adds.

    Still, elephant casualties have become a major headache for the government and a cause of concern for wildlife enthusiasts. By the government’s own admission, 51 elephants died in 2009-10, while in 2010-11 and 2011-12 that figure stood at 83 and 66 respectively. In 2012-13, at least 30 pachyderms have already perished, official sources say.

    “The major reasons for high elephant deaths are electrocution, railway accidents and poaching besides natural causes like ageing and heatstroke,” says Odisha forest and environment minister Bijayshree Routray. “Damage to elephant habitats and corridors as well as rising mananimal conflict are responsible for the casualties.”

    “Earlier, there were only a few trains that ran through major elephant corridors in Angul, Keonjhar and Sambalpur. But now a number of passenger and goods trains crisscross these areas, putting the elephants at serious risk,” says Sharma, citing a railway mishap on August 16 in which three elephants were killed in Keonjhar as an example.

    Experts also cite the loss of habitat, putting forest land to other use, the increasing frequency of trains, irrigation projects, a rise in electricity connections, changing demographic patterns in and around forests and irrational allocation of land for mining as threats to elephants.

    Poaching for ivory accounts for a third of elephant deaths, say activists. “It’s a three-stage operation. The killings are mostly done by local people, who in turn send the stuff to national level operators based mostly in the Northeast. From there, it is sent to different parts of the world primarily via Nepal,” explains a fieldlevel forest official. While the modus operandi of poachers is known to the authorities, not much is seemingly being done to prevent it from happening. “Sometimes we are helpless. We suffer from serious manpower and infrastructure handicaps. Forty per cent of the sanctioned posts are lying vacant. Moreover, poachers nowadays are equipped with latest weapons which we cannot counter,” says a forest officer, adding that apart from traditional rail and road routes, illegal traders are sending elephant tusks, which have been cut into small pieces and packaged, by post after labelling them as ayurvedic medicines. “We lack a dedicated forest intelligence setup to curb such activities.”

    Forest and environment minister Bijayshree Routray insists the government is serious about protecting elephants. “We have put in place an elephant management plan and are working on restoration of corridors and habitats. We plan to create a dedicated cell involving forest and police officers to track and bust organised wildlife crime syndicates. We are also thinking of giving forest staff powers to use firearms so that they are able to effectively tackle poachers and timber mafia,” he says. “The government has also asked power utility companies to install circuit breakers and high poles to prevent sagging of transmission wires leading to the electrocution of elephants,” he adds. Officers say that the government has also proposed to raise a sniffer dog squad to deal with wildlife cases.

    But wildlife activists doubt the state’s sincerity. Some time back, the government shelved proposals for two elephant reserves, South Odisha elephant reserve and Baitarani elephant reserve, despite human-elephant conflict becoming increasingly common in different parts of the state. Mohanty alleges that this “was done because of the mining and industrial lobby”. Officials, on the other hand, defend the state’s decision, arguing the elephant reserves will serve little purpose unless the Centre amends laws to give them the required teeth.

    But Mohanty sees a larger gameplan. He believes the reserves were not created because mines and industries which could come up in these areas would find it difficult to obtain clearances if the reserves had been established. “Now, Odisha’s elephant population will be severely threatened as mega bauxite and iron ore mines and metal industries coming up in these proposed elephant reserve areas will easily obtain clearances without assessment of impacts on wild elephants. This will only worsen the situation,” he says.

  8. Another rhino killed, horn chopped off

    TNN Sep 16, 2012, 11.26PM IST

    JORHAT: Barely five days after a female rhino was killed in Kaziranga National Park, an adult male rhino was killed by poachers in the park’s Bagori forest range on Sunday. Poachers shot dead the rhino and chopped off its horn before forest guards arrived at the spot.

    With this, the number of rhino deaths in Kaziranga had mounted to 11 this year so far. “We have found a carcass of an adult male rhino from Bagori forest range of the park this morning (Sunday). The rhino was an adult male one and its horn was missing,” a park official said.

  9. Tigress found dead in Panna tiger reserve
    TNN | Jul 28, 2012, 05.54AM IST
    3

    Tigress found dead in Panna tiger reserve

    BHOPAL: A 21-month-old tigress was found dead close to Talgaon area of Madhya Pradesh’s much-talked Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR) on Friday. The park is spread over 543 sq km, where a big cat revival programme is underway after it lost all the tigers primarily to poaching some three years ago.

    The sub-adult tigress, tagged as 214, was found dead during patrolling in the core area of PTR in Panna and Chhatarpur district. The body didn’t bear any injury mark, officials said. It must have died before pre-dawn, they added.

    Post-mortem of the animal would ascertain the cause of the death, officials said.

    With this death, the tiger population, comprising sub-adults and cubs has come down to 19 from 20. After the reserve, situated in eastern MP, became devoid of big cats, four tigresses and a tiger were trans-located to Panna from other parks to revive its population, officials said. The revival plan had met with success after the birth of cubs.

    Tigress – 214 was born to T-2 that was trans-located to PTR from Kanha Tiger Reserve (KTR) on March 9, 2009. The dead tigress was the fourth cub of the first litter of T-2, officials said.

    Meanwhile, the top officials of the reserve have reached the spot and are studying as to what went wrong that would have resulted in the tigress’ death.

    “I have left the state capital for Panna,” PTR field director RS Murthy said. “I was not there so I can’t comment over the cause of the death”, he added.

  10. The cat is under threat, as shrinking habitat is forcing it to stray into human territory. Incidents show that enraged mobs are beating leopards to death, in the human against animal conflict

    About two weeks ago, the serenity of a small town of Bohikhuwa in Assam’s Golaghat district was shattered when news of an adult leopard injuring two students, made the rounds. In the wake of the incident, within hours the leopard was tracked down by anxious villagers armed with sticks, stones and rods and was whacked to death before forest officials could reach the area. After killing the animal, villagers distributed its meat among themselves as an act of reprisal against the beast, which was claimed to be terrifying their neighborhood.

    A life snuffed out A leopard that was killed in Yeoor Hills, Thane, recently

    Carcass
    These are few of many incidents, where leopards have been killed ruthlessly by an enraged mob for entering human territory. Such incidents, which have intensified in the past two years, bring to light the perpetual conflict between man and animal. Human interference has resulted in a loss of natural habitat for animals. These animals stray into human dwellings, causing further conflict. We lost about 358 leopards in the year 2011 according to the data provided by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), India. Out of these, about 52 per cent were results of man-animal conflict. The figures also show that leopard deaths across India have been multiplying since 2007 with most of the casualties happening in Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Ironically, leopards are in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and enjoy the highest degree of protection.

    Safe in this enclosure? This cat is a picture of feline grace, power and beauty even as its eyes seem to sear through visitors
    Reasons
    Last year in March, after a leopard mauled three people from Dhamdhar village in Adnala Range of Kalagarh Forest Division in Uttarakhand, it was captured and put inside a cage by Forest Department officials, who were about to transport the cage to the nearest range office at Rathuwadhab. As they started to leave, the officials were surrounded by a mob of villagers who started attacking the caged leopard using rods and sickles. The mob then doused the leopard with kerosene and burnt it alive.“These animals’ habitats are being fragmented, degraded and lost. Human presence is constantly extending and shrinking wild habitats. As long this continues, we should expect conflicts to escalate. As the leopards attack and feed on livestock and also attack human beings, their presence amongst people causes fear. With this kind of widespread negative impact, it is natural for the affected local population to view these animals as an enemy,” says Dr Ravi Chellam, Wildlife Biologist and Conservation Scientist, Former Director, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), India.

    Preparations: The Forest Department had installed a cage at Adarsh Nagar in Aarey Colony in Goregaon to catch stray leopards
    Last January, a leopard was attacked after it mauled a pregnant woman in Guwahati (Assam). The same leopard, a week earlier, had attacked a 20-year-old man, when he strayed out in the fields. The leopard’s natural habitat is being affected due to forest degradation and about 50 per cent of wild cats are being forced to stay in close proximity to human territory. The leopard is a versatile animal and is not selective about its habitat. One of the reasons is the availability of food in agricultural areas adjoining forests. Leopards, owing to their adaptability are found in varied landscapes and they also seem to survive and reproduce successfully in human-modified environments. It is not only development projects in the forest that have been depriving the leopards of prey, but the Forest Bill 2006, passed by the Indian Government, which permits traditional Adivasis the right to settle inside National parks, has accelerated the animosity.

    Taken away: A tranquilized leopard being rescued by forest officials in Guwahati. While there is so much focus on saving the tiger, leopards need to be saved too
    Conflict
    “The man-animal conflict has been prevalent since ages due to increasing human density near forest peripheries. Since the forest department is barely able to protect the protected areas, protection outside the buffer zones is more difficult. As per rough estimates around 40,000 families are said to live near the buffer zones across all 41 tiger reserves,” states Dr Anish Andheria, Director of Science, Natural History and Photography with Sanctuary Asia. Activists opine that since no effort has been made for a leopard census, which would show the exact number of leopards existing within and outside protected areas, no efforts are being taken for its protection. “We could be losing one leopard every single day across India to poachers and lynch mobs,” Andheria explains.

    Murder spot: Villagers beat a leopard to death. The picture shows the grim reality of the plight of these cats in India
    Weapons
    According to Pravin Pardeshi, Chief Secretary (Forest Ministry), “Somehow constructing homes in the corridors of forests has been legalized by the government. When these people attack the animal no action is taken on them and even the Forest Department is not allowed to use weapons to disperse or prevent the mob from attacking the animal,” he says. For Vidya Athreya, a wildlife biologist and a leopard researcher who has carried out research in agricultural fields near Pune and Akola district in Maharashtra, people and leopards in most parts have lived accepting each other’s presence and the cats are not killed the way as it is portrayed sometimes. “Leopards are highly adaptable and live close to villages and our work has shown that they mostly live without harming people. But when they are captured and released in an unknown area, they attack people near the release site,” she says. According to her, people have not yet accepted that non-wilderness areas can support wildlife and they expect all leopards be confined in forests.
    Measures
    The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which monitors tiger reserves in the country last year, had proposed to set up a five-member committee for review of leopard mortality due to conflict with humans. This committee, which besides looking into the mortality of leopards arising out of conflict would also suggest mitigation measures. The organization along with Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had also issued guidelines in 2008 for ‘Project Tiger’ to manage and handle man-animal conflict agreeing to pay Rs 10 lakh to the villagers for their rehabilitation from the core areas. “We have worked on reducing loss and fragmentation of leopard habitats, trying to bring in potential habitats under the purview of protection,” states Sanjay Gubbi, a scientist with Nature Conservation Foundation and a former head of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Recently Assam’s State Environment and Forest Minister, Rockybul Hussain announced a help line where people can report incidents of leopards straying into residential areas after a leopard was killed at Adingiri hill in Guwahati.
    “The problem is that the management is not empathizing with people’s needs, while rendering medical care or taking steps to reduce the risk from leopard attacks. Currently, the management’s style of functioning conveys that wildlife is more important than the safety of local people and hence local communities tend to take the law into their own hands. This is an issue, which needs research understanding and hands-on engagement to manage, control and resolve it. We need to view this problem as part of the larger development and land use planning debate and not merely as a wildlife conservation issue,” explains Dr Chellam.
    Poaching
    The Forest Ministry on the other hand is in the process of reinforcing its anti-poaching system of informers to ensure that the corridors between the sanctuaries and human territories remain protected. “We are promoting a programme in over 100 villages to provide bio-gas and cooking gas to villagers so that they don’t have to enter the forested areas. We are also planning to increase the wildlife corridor areas near National Parks and Tiger Reserves,” says Pardeshi.
    Guards
    Nevertheless, it is the unavailability of trained guards and equipment that has been making the situation all the more complex experts opine. The establishment of Rapid Response Units (RRU), whose job would entail capturing and rehabilitating the animals, while communicating with the public through different channels is becoming the need of the hour. “Whenever there is a contingency of man-animal confrontation, the time taken by the forest officials to respond is more, which results in escalation of the conflict. Why isn’t there a constant presence of the RRU in the territories where leopards are sighted? The forest department also lacks vets, equipment and access to tranquilize the animal,” states Dr Andheria.
    This is also turning out to be an international issue and has been receiving sharp criticism from people across the globe via social networking sites. Recently, after news of several leopards being lynched made the rounds, international wildlife activists started a signature campaign on a petition site naming it — Does India deserve big cats like the leopard? Stop killing them! Through the campaign they aim to collect 10,000 signatures and forward it to the Environment Ministry of India and demand for action.
    Cat scan
    March 22, 2009: A leopard was beaten to death by the villagers of Udhampur, after it strayed into human settlements.
    Feb 21, 2010: Villagers from Semarighatahi near Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, beat a leopard to death after it had entered the village and attacked livestock.

    January 13, 2011: A furious mob in a village in Haryana, whacked to death a leopard which strayed into their area. The video shot by a cameraman from MiD DAY did the rounds on the Internet prompting authorities to detain culprits.

    January 20, 2011: Angry locals beat to death a leopard that attacked three persons near Gandarpur village between Chandaka Elephant Sanctuary and Bhubhaneswar. Celebrating the death, they put the animal’s carcass on display and posed for photographs.
    January 23, 2011: In Faridabad, a leopard was brutally killed by a mob after it attacked a woman. The angry mob even broke tranquilizer guns brought by rescue teams.

    March 13, 2011: Two leopards were killed by villagers after they attacked three people in Anandnagar, Badkhariya area in Katarniaghat wildlife sanctuary in Bahraich (UP).

    December 18, 2011: A leopard was shot dead after it attacked three farmers in a village near Gurgaon, Haryana.

    Feb 15, 2012: A leopard which strayed out of a forest near Bahadurgarh area in Haryana, was beaten to death by villagers with lathis and spears.

    Feb 23, 2012: A leopard was beaten to death by residents of Mekhliganj, WB after it entered a tea garden and injured seven persons. Forest Department Officers were attacked by the villagers for arriving late.

    March 29, 2012: Two leopards were found dead near Katarniaghat wildlife sanctuary.

  11. Kaziranga loses 573 animals to flood, apathy
    Naresh Mitra, TNN | Jul 8, 2012, 11.53PM IST

    GUWAHATI: In a sign of shocking administrative apathy, herds of animals trying to reach elevated ground to escape the Brahmaputra’s furious, swirling floodwaters were run over on NH-37 by speeding trucks in the last one week.

    Park officials said at least 20 animals, mostly deer, were killed on the high ground along the southern boundary of Kaziranga, and these numbers could go up because there isn’t enough deployment of officials and volunteers to ensure that the speed limit set by the administration, of 10km per hour, is strictly imposed.

    Considering it’s a stretch of merely 50km where all these deaths have occurred, deployment of adequate volunteers wasn’t too imposing a task. Worse, the floods, one of the most severe in over two decades, also damaged Kaziranga’s anti-poaching infrastructure, posing danger to its wide variety of wildlife from poachers.

    On Sunday, Kaziranga National Park officials found 14 more carcasses of animals, taking the number of animals drowned to 573. The worst floods in the last 25 years were witnessed in 1988 when 1,203 animals perished, while in 1998, more than 650 animals, including 29 rhinos, were killed.

    Many of the reserve’s 152 anti-poaching camps are underwater; 16 of these had to be shifted to other locations when the water level of the Brahmaputra rose on June 29. The mud tracks, crucial for the movement of park officials and forest guards, too, are damaged. Most animals killed were either too old to escape the hungry tides or too young.

    “Although the animals adapt well with flood-dependent ecology of Kaziranga, the ones too young are left behind. So are old and diseased animals,” said M Firoz Ahmed, a wildlife biologist of Aaranyak.

    “We found 14 more carcasses of hog deer and sambars in Kaziranga. We’re still looking for more carcasses. We’re using elephants to move inside the park as all roads are damaged,” said park director S Bora. Bewilderingly, despite the magnitude of the deluge, helicopters haven’t been used to see where human intervention may help in reducing the scale of the unfolding tragedy.

    A large number of animals migrated to elevated grounds in the adjoining Karbi Anglong area when 80% of the park area was inundated on June 29, when, according to Assam environment and forest minister Rockybul Hussain, water level in Kaziranga touched 76.46m – 1.44m above the danger level.

    Of the 573 animals killed, 14 are Assam’s famed one-horned rhinos which are on the endangered list, one elephant, one wild buffalo, 486 hog deer, 10 swamp deer, 21 sambhars, 31 wild boars, two hog badgers, two gaurs, one jackal and five porcupines. While the water level dropped to 74.5m, it’s still too early to rule out more animal deaths.

    “We are assessing the extent of damage to park infrastructure. It will take some time to complete the exercise,” said Hussain.

    Despite the loss of wildlife during floods, Kaziranga’s ecology is intricately linked to it. Located on the southern banks of the Brahmaputra, the annual floods recharge the vast grassland and 200-odd wetlands dotting the park for the survival of carnivores and herbivores. In 2006 and 2009, when the state experienced a drought-like situation, animals in Kaziranga, especially rhinos, faced a lack of fresh vegetation.

  12. Peacock: You will not see peacock in next 10 years

    The peacock is the Indian National Bird. People and nations make a symbol after great thought. The peacock is unique to India and for centuries it has been revered. That we should allow its trade when trade in all other wild animal and bird parts is forbidden should be strongly condemned. That it has been put into a Wildlife Protection Act and allowed to stay there for 30 years since 1972 is even more reprehensible.

    Man’s understanding of nature grows from year to year. Till some years ago it was believed that the shahtoosh shawl was made from the shed hair of a goat. Only now has it been proved that the hair is obtained by killing 8 chiru antelope for one shawl. Likewise when the original Act was made it was believed that the trade in peacock feathers could be allowed because all the feathers were obtained from naturally shed peacock feathers. It is true that the peacock sheds its feathers as all birds do but, like all birds, these feathers are only for one month, in early August till September and that too one at a time.
    Also bear in mind that the peacock is a solitary bird during the day. It does not fly as a rule, it lives in a small group of a few birds in the same tree as it never changes its nest. It lives around human settlements. Therefore it is easily accessible.
    What bearing does this have on the feather trade?
    For one, because it is a solitary bird, it drops its feather in a solitary place. No one who has a shop of feathers is going to send someone looking for the single dropped feather. Secondly, because it cannot fly long distances, or very high, it is easy to catch, and because it roosts in the same branches, it is a very easy target. So the trade has never bothered with the single dropped feather: it has always gone for the bird. A bird so tame that it is easy to have it eating out of your hands.

    The peacock is trapped, killed and then the feathers are plucked out and sent in sackloads and truckloads to the shops and trading centres. Poachers simply follow the track that the peacocks use to get water or to roost, shine bright lights on them to blind them and then throw a net over them. Most poachers say that caching a peacock is easier than catching a hen. If even catching is difficult, mass poisoning takes place of peacocks by luring them for food and then mixing poison with the grain. Everyday there is a report in the papers. While drought in Rajasthan and Gujarat has almost wiped out the peacocks, in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh they are being killed in the thousands every day. Even a place like Morena, named after the peacock, has weekly reports on peacock poisoning. Reports stream in every day: 50 dead in Bubkiya village in Ajmer, 70 dead in Matauli in Madhya Pradesh, 40 killed in Yamunanagar, 15 killed in Ambaji ( near the temple)…

    How can it be proven that the trade does not rely on shed feathers? Quite simply. There is a simple test which the Wildlife Department promised to carry out regularly when they granted permission for the trade – but never did. The shaft of a peacock feather taken from a killed peacock has traces of blood inside it. The naturally shed feather does not. People in the trade immediately cut off the shaft of the feather about 20mm so that no tests can be done. Look at the feathers in the market. Every single one has been cut. Would they have done this if they knew it was a naturally shed feather?

    The peacock feather is a useless item for the human being: You cannot eat it, wear it or even dust with it. All you can do is to buy and put it in a vase at home or in a mandir or make a fan with it. 80-90 % of the trade concentrates on foreign tourists. The Department of Foreign Trade banned the export of peacock feathers 2 years ago. (Till then the Ministry of Commerce was licencing 20 lakh feathers a year! Considering that a peacock has less than 100 feathers, how many peacocks would have been killed? ) But thousands of foreign tourists come into India every year and buy suitcases full. Hotel shops carry peacock feathers so do all tourist based curio shops. Shall the national bird be turned into a fan when it is now an endangered species?

    The peacock itself is in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act: severe penalties are possible for anyone caught hunting and trading in it. Has a single person being caught trading in the body? No; because the feather is allowed to be traded. Do these two provisions in the Act not contradict each other? I am punished for hunting a peacock – but the only reason why I hunt it is because I sell the feathers which are allowed to be sold.

    I would like the Government to delete the following provision in Section 44 clause (c):

    “Provided further that nothing in this subsection shall apply to the dealers in tail feathers of peacocks and articles made there from and the manufacturers of such articles “, and Section 49A(b) should be amended in conformity with that.

    Dozens of questions have been asked in Parliament on whether the Government is aware that the Act has serious loopholes that contribute to the killing of the National Bird and whether the government is going to amend the act or whether the government is going to issue a notification imposing a ban on the feather trade. The answer is always a noncommittal “we are looking into the matter.” The Ministry for Environment and Forests has already reached the conclusion – as its internal files show- that the peacock is doomed unless this ban comes, but do you think that this Minister would do anything about it?

    Not only are the fans being sold in India in the thousands but they are being smuggled across to Bangladesh where foreign trade in fans is allowed. Bangladesh Exporters such as A. K. Enterprises of Mission Road, Gopibagh, Dacca, openly advertise the export of Indian Peacock feathers.

    Remember: the drought in Rajasthan and Gujarat has already destroyed entire populations in those states (North Gujarat is now completely peacock less). The indiscriminate use of the banned pesticide DDT and other insecticide treated seeds (specially tomatoes) planted carelessly on the ground surface by farmers are killing thousands. As the old growth of clumps of trees with their bushes goes, there are no breeding grounds left as peacocks lay their eggs on the ground. Dogs attack their eggs and the small peafowls, and the tribal and poachers who supply to VIPs kill it for meat … all this and then the trade as well. Give the peacock another 10 years and then, like the vulture, you will never see it again.

    The bird with a hundred eyes that represent the stars, the sun, moon, the universe and the vault of heaven. The symbol of compassion, empathy, the incorruptible soul. According to Sufi legend the Original Spirit was created in the shape of a peacock. When it saw itself in the mirror of the Divine Essence, it was so overwhelmed by its beauty that great drops of sweat flew from its body and all other living creatures were formed from these. The guard of the Greek goddess Hera , the Roman Goddess Juno, the Christian symbol of omniscience, the Babylonian Phoenix, the emblem of Heliopolis, the Chinese symbol of rain and fertility, the representative of the Buddhist Wheel of Life and the Ming dynasty. The bird of Skanda and the killer of earthly attachments, the symbol of Krishna, the bird of immortality….in every religion the peacock is sacred. This is the bird that the Government and you are allowing to be killed and turned into two things: fans and brooms, and in the process showing the Indian ability to turn the truly magnificent into the completely trivial.
    - Maneka Gandhi
    Last Updated on Thursday, 14 June 2012 14:17

  13. A large male tiger was hacked to pieces in Tadoba in May – Photo courtesy of Wildlife Protection Society of India
    At least 48 tigers have died so far this year
    June 2012. India’s tiger fatalities are rising steadily; the country has lost 48 tigers in the last 22 weeks, with Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand and the Tadoba Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra being the hardest hit by poaching.

    At least 19 tigers were victims of poaching

    The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) confirmed that 19 of these deaths are clear-cut cases of poaching but wildlife experts claim poaching deaths could be much higher. 48 tiger deaths in 6 months compares with 56 tiger deaths reported in the whole of 2010 and 52 reported in 2011.

    A sharp rise in poaching has created a situation where, according to the minister in charge, “tiger reserve states are now afraid to report mortality of a tiger. But in order to ensure that all deaths do get reported, we now insist that someone from NTCA will be present for the post-mortem of a tiger.”

    Deputy inspector general of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Mr S.P. Yadav, admits that one of the NTCA’s biggest weaknesses has been in the field of intelligence gathering. “Intelligence gathering is the backbone of anti-poaching activities. Delay in reaction allows the poacher to get the upper hand,” he said.

    Detailed security plan
    The NTCA has mooted the setting up of an anti-poaching force, with Karnataka being the first state to put this into practice. It has also launched a detailed security plan for these tiger reserves and already thermal cameras are operational in the southern part of Corbett National Park.

    “With constant pressure from Far Eastern markets for tiger parts it has never been more important for us to come together to secure precious tiger habitats,” says David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) CEO, Melanie Shepherd. “Our work In India, Thailand and Russia is helping to maintain the stability of tiger populations in these areas but we need to keep up the fight to protect the wild tiger.”

    For more on our tiger projects including DSWF TigerTime campaign click here

  14. Forensic report reveals that dead leopard was poisoned
    Megha Pol, Hindustan Times

    A leopard that was found dead at the Yeoor range of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park on April 16, was poisoned, tests have revealed. Eight nails from the front paws were missing, leading to suspicion over its death.
    A dead dog was found next to the leopard, which forest officials had sent for analysis to the lab. Satish Phale, assistant conservator of forests, said that the forensic report, which is with the department, revealed that the leopard died because of the poison that had entered its body from the flesh of the dog it had eaten on the day it died.

    Sunil Limaye, chief conservator of forests, said, “We have detained two locals in the case.” However, both suspects were later released as forest officials did not find anything suspicious on them.

    “The same type of poison was found in the dog meat and in the leopard’s stomach. The report revealed that the poison was first given to the dog and then entered the leopard’s stomach when it killed the dog,” said a forest official, on condition of anonymity.

    Krishna Tiwari, a wildlife expert, said, “It is difficult to say, but if it was poaching, then all nails would have being removed. Leopards hunt locals’ animals, because of which they are sometimes poisoned to end the nuisance. This must be one such case.”

  15. Tiger found dead in Melghat reserve
    Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN Apr 18, 2012, 06.15AM IST

    NAGPUR: At a time when Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR) has come out of the red with improved tiger sightings due to better protection, death of a tiger has come as a big blow to the reserve.
    With this, the death toll of tigers in Maharashtra in the past five months (since November 3, 2011) has mounted to eight. Maharashtra lost 7 tigers – 5 in Chandrapur district and 2 in Tipeshwar – in the past.

    A full-grown tiger was found dead 100 metres away from a water hole in Chourakund forest range in Sipna wildlife division of MTR on Monday, around 9pm by the patrolling staff. The last report of a tiger death in Melghat was seven years ago, officials said.
    “The foul smell led the staff to the putrefied carcass of the tiger. Over 40% body parts including claws and teeth were intact indicating there was no element of poaching,” said AK Mishra, chief conservator of forests (CCF) and field director of Melghat. “The carcass is 8 to 10 days old and seems to have been eaten by small carnivores,” he added.
    Mishra said that the tiger seems to have died due to old age as its canines showed wear and tear. He also ruled out poisoning as cause of death. “There is regular monitoring of water holes by the field staff and they were already on the job when they traced the tiger,” he said.
    However, the post-mortem report will only reveal the exact cause of death. The park authorities were not sure whether to go for DNA testing to know whether the dead tiger was a male or female.
    The panchnama and post-mortem was performed in the presence of Sipna deputy conservator of forests, S Yuvraj and Amravati honorary district wildlife warden, Vishal Bansod who was present as the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) representative.

    Death of a tiger
    * Sipna tiger died due to old age, canines showed wear and tear
    * Carcass is 8-10 days old
    * 7 years ago last tiger death was reported in Melghat
    * State has lost eight tigers in last five months

  16. Chennai hub of wildlife racket
    Christin Mathew Philip, TNN Mar 15, 2012, 04.48AM IST

    CHENNAI: If Indonesian officials had not intercepted a consignment of 19 Indian star tortoises sent to the Southeast Asian country from Chennai, the animals would have ended up in a meal served up in a restaurant in Jakarta or rerouted to Europe or the United States for sale as pets.
    The tortoises were returned to the country and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) last Saturday handed them over to the Arignar Anna Zoological Park where they are being rehabilitated. The Indian star tortoise is a protected species and it is illegal to either possess or trade the reptile in the country.

    This has not stopped the smuggling of these tortoises and other protected species like the sea cucumber, seahorse and pangolin, with south India becoming a hub for wildlife smugglers and Chennai serving as a transit point. According to WCCB officials, 83 cases of wildlife smuggling have been registered in the past three years, with 40 being filed in 2009-2010 and 24 each in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 (till December, 2011).
    Wildlife experts say demand for exotic species in countries like China, Malaysia and Vietnam, where parts of these animals are believed to have medicinal or aphrodisiacal properties, is driving the illegal trade that threatens to wipe out entire species. The hard, scale-covered skin of the Indian Pangolin is used in medicinal concoctions in China, Malaysia and Vietnam.
    The pangolin, like other animals favoured by smugglers is a protected species under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and is on the red list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Forest officials say traffickers also smuggle tiger skin, ornamental fish and snakes, including cobras, kraits and vipers. Officials say smugglers are coming up with novel ways to transport animals, often with little care for their safety.
    “Animals are sometimes stuffed into boxes and are crushed to death,” a WCCB official said. “Among the newer methods that smugglers are using include using lockets to conceal crocodile and snake skin. They also laminate insects and attach them to keychains or pass them off as lockets,” said regional deputy director of WCCB, S Narayanan.

    There have been instances of tortoises being smuggled out of the country in cardboard boxes, with their heads taped inside their shells. Rare lizards or insects are hidden in rolled-up socks in suitcases in flights, he said. Narayanan says WCCB works with various government agencies to prevent smuggling of animals. “The customs, police and forest departments work in coordination to stop animal smugglers,” Narayanan said.

  17. December 2010,Saturday

    tehelkahindi.com tehelkafoundation.org criticalfutures.org

    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 51, Dated December 25, 2010

    CURRENT AFFAIRS

    POACHING

    We broke into a poacher network and found one tiger is killed every two weeks…

    Wake-up call for Project Tiger?

    The Indo-Nepal border. Dangerous men. Small hideouts. And rampant trade. MANMOHAN GUPTA and VK SHASHIKUMAR spent two risky months in the field to capture poachers on camera. Will the government take action now?

    JITENDER BHARGAVA

    Tiger

    ART: ROHIT CHAWLA FOR ARTIGER

    A TIGHTLY knit cross-country poaching network straddling China , Nepal and India is depleting India ’s forests of its magnificent wildlife, especially its tigers. A tiger is killed every two weeks in India . A leopard is killed and skinned every day. Several foxes and otters are ruthlessly hunted down every day for their fur. To deconstruct this story, the TEHELKA team went on a dangerous mission, posing as the Delhi agents of a tiger skin buyer.

    Our first rendezvous with poachers was at Dharchula, a small border town in Uttarakhand, where a pedestrian bridge across the Kali river takes one to Darchula (note the different spelling) in Nepal , not far from the tri-junction of Tibet , Nepal and India . Cross-border marriages and kinship flourish here, the notion of citizenship is fuzzy and there is a comfortable camaraderie. On 22 November, we met with poachers Kailash, alias Gullu, and Dinesh. This recorded conversation (translated from Hindi) is illustrative of the lack of tension about negotiating the international border:

    Tiger Poaching Exposé – Kailash: “I have stocked Tiger skins in Nepal .”

    KAILASH: I have the stocked tiger skins in Nepal . If you want it I have to bring it to India .
    TEHELKA: You don’t have it right now?
    KAILASH: I have the stuff. But it’s in the safe custody of my people in Nepal . I can arrange to bring it back to India . Don’t worry, there is no tension or difficulty.
    TEHELKA: Is there a problem in keeping it (tiger skin) here (Dharchula)?
    KAILASH: You must understand. If the stuff is kept here there could be problems. In any case, the tiger skins have already been dispatched to Nepal . They are on their way to Tibet and that is why we stock them in Nepal . We sent the tiger skins a week ago.

    If it was reassuring to know that surveillance on the Indian side is some sort of deterrent to stocking the contraband on our territory, it was distressing to know that an annual border trade fair organised by the Uttarakhand government at nondescript Jauljibi, an hour’s drive from Dharchula, facilitates illicit trade too. Held from 14-28 November, it is a time for traders from Tibet , Nepal and India to buy and sell goods, strike bargains and enter into annual deals. It’s also the biggest social event in this part of Kumaon.

    Chinese wildlife traffickers accompanied by their Nepalese agents quietly slip into India via Nepal during the mela to strike deals with Indian poachers for the supply of tiger skins, bones and other animal parts. Taking advantage of the open borders, several Chinese wildlife traders also cross the border posing as Nepalese.

    Locals in remote border towns like Jauljibi and Dharchula have become adept stockists of wildlife body parts. Here stocks are accumulated for a year till the mela when the transactions happen at a feverish pace. Around this time, TEHELKA’s undercover reporters met the poachers who claimed to have successfully transacted tiger skins and bones with Chinese buyers during the mela. Here’s the evidence caught on TEHELKA’s hidden cameras:

    DINESH: Let me be honest, we had a good stock of tiger skins for the mela.
    KAILASH: Yes. We told you about the rush during the mela. It’s a big affair. The mela provides us a huge cover to conduct our business.
    TEHELKA: Why don’t we go there now?
    KAILASH:We can go now.
    DINESH: Why don’t you first take (buy) the piece (tiger skin)? Once this is done, both of us can go over to the mela. But bhai, we can’t take your driver with us. Once we are free of the tension, we can roam around. This mela is really a trade fair for us (poachers).
    TEHELKA: So where do the buyers come from?
    DINESH: From Tibet , Nepal and India . This is where annual requirements are frozen. What kind of stuff, what’s to be done, how much, all this is settled.
    KAILASH: This is where it’s done. The mela is a good excuse. The government is running it but it is ideal for contraband.

    An annual border trade fair organised by the Uttarakhand government in Jauljibi is used by traffickers from China , Nepal and India for illegal trade

    Although there is a demand for tiger body parts in Southeast Asian countries, the maximum revenue comes through Chinese buyers. Most of the illegal shipment of wildlife products, carried by human couriers, is sent through Dharchula into Nepal , dodging the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) patrols. A TEHELKA exclusive (Sansar’s Successors, 16 October) had revealed the involvement of some ITBP men in crossborder trafficking of tiger skins and bones.

    Uttarakhand is the new hub of illegal trade in animal skins — tiger, leopard, otter and fox. The big demand from Chinese buyers has scotched India ’s attempts to conserve its wildlife. TEHELKA’s probe conducted over two months has garnered startling field intelligence, which is bound to raise serious questions about the efficacy of India ’s tiger conservation efforts.

    Though poachers refrain from naming specific tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries from where animals are poached, a laborious join-the-dots exercise by our undercover team, hidden cam in tow, reveals that there are serious breaches of security in the tiger habitats of Jim Corbett National Park (Uttarakhand) and Dudhwa National Park (Uttar Pradesh). Our team first befriended Dinesh, a key link in poaching networks operating in Uttarakhand and UP. He is out on bail in a case registered against him in Nainital. He moves around freely in these two states. His job is to maintain personal links with poaching gangs, agents and intermediaries. Here’s how Dinesh explained his role in the food chain during an interaction in Darchula:

    Tiger Poaching Exposé – Poacher Dinesh: “We send the skins across (border) at 10-11pm”

    TEHELKA : Where do you get your stuff (tiger skins) from? Uttarakhand?
    DINESH: It comes from Ram Nagar in UP.
    TEHELKA: But Ram Nagar is in Uttarakhand, not UP…
    DINESH: Yes, but it’s closer to the plains… near Haldwani.
    TEHELKA: Ok. So the stuff (skins) are brought from the plains and kept here?
    DINESH: Yes.
    TEHELKA: In Nepal ?
    DINESH: Yes, in Nepal .
    TEHELKA: So I’m sure you don’t have any trouble or difficulty here.
    DINESH: Nothing happens here. It’s perfectly safe for us. We control this place in daytime and at night.
    TEHELKA: So, who conducts the business? The one who owns the stuff?
    DINESH: No, it doesn’t work that way. The one who owns the skin has actually purchased it from someone else. A tiger is killed by someone, its skin and bones are bought by another and then immediately sold to someone else till it reaches here. All the stuff that reaches here is meant to go “up” (to Tibet ). If they are still around then it means those guys (Chinese) haven’t yet come to pick it up.

    Most of the illegal wildlife shipment, carried by human couriers, is sent through Dharchula into Nepal , dodging Indian patrols

    The key elements of this trade are anonymity, need-to-know basis of business transactions and the ability to keep the stock moving till a deal is struck with a buyer.

    TEHELKA: How does it (tiger skin) come here ( Nepal )?
    DINESH: All of that is managed.
    TEHELKA: Come on, tell me…
    DINESH: Ok.
    TEHELKA: Is there no checking on the bridge (over Kali river)?
    DINESH: Look, the stuff (tiger skins) is obviously not sent across the bridge. It is sent across at other places along the river.
    TEHELKA: Don’t you have any trouble?
    DINESH: No, there is no trouble. We have carried this activity for so many years. We send the stuff (tiger skins) across late at night, 10-11 pm. We stand on one side with our torches to signal the receiving party. When the pick-up party signals their presence, we send the stuff across the river. It’s all fixed beforehand.
    TEHELKA: But the guys who check (ITBP) are never aware of your activities?
    DINESH: Generally, there is no way those guys get to know of what we are up to. It’s another matter if informers pass specific intelligence to them. Suppose I have a 1 kg packet, who will know what is in it?

    Tiger Poaching Exposé – Poacher shows off full skins of two leopards

    Dinesh gets his confidence from his mentor Kailash, alias Gullu, a Nepalese citizen but equally at home in India . Every day, Kailash crosses the bridge, hires a bike for Rs. 100 and works as a PWD contractor in Dharchula, where everybody seems to know him. He has a reputation in these parts as a jovial, well-meaning, well-connected and wealthy man. His acolytes admire him for his reputation as the ultimate Casanova who gets any chhamiya (derogatory slang for ‘girl’) he wants.

    These community and cultural linkages that make South Asia such a melting pot form an invisible tunnel that connects criminal poaching gangs across borders, and right into Delhi , where Majnu Ka Tila is the well-known hub. “Nobody will open up in Majnu Ka Tila. But with my reference they (tiger skin traders) talk. I will give you a password. All of you have to do is quote the password to the person that I arrange for you to meet,” Kailash boasts.

    As our undercover team gains the trust of Kailash and Dinesh, they spill their secrets. They reveal they have access to 11 sets of tiger skins and bones that they could arrange to sell to us, three of which were stocked in Dharchula, awaiting pick-up by Chinese buyers. But if they received payment on the spot or through their preferred hawala route, they could sell this to Indian buyers as well. They talked about three sets stocked in Dhampur-Najeebabad area near Corbett and five sets stocked at Majnu Ka Tila. Their confidence won, it was a matter of time before they agreed to display the tiger skin they wanted to sell.

    Killer trade Tiger skins and body parts seized from poachers in 2007

    Killer trade Tiger skins and body parts seized from poachers in 2007

    PHOTO: WPSI

    At 11 am on 24 November, Dinesh set out with the TEHELKA reporter on a short drive along the Kali river where a henchman wearing a black leather jacket joined us. He refused to divulge his name. Dinesh stopped the car and the group started down the steep slope, stumbling, slipping and sliding down until they reached a hut.

    The unnamed person entered the hut first, pulled out a suitcase from a dark corner and took out a tightly folded 109-inch tiger skin. He then dragged out a sack wrapped in a black polythene cover, untied the knot on the sack and took out tiger bones still covered with slivers of flesh.

    TEHELKA: This is so foul smelling. How old is this?
    TRADER 1: This is not old, look at the flesh.
    TRADER 2: Come on, take a look.
    TEHELKA:Must be a month old?
    TRADER 1: This is a full set (all the bones of the tiger are in the sack).
    TEHELKA: Is this rotting?
    TRADER 2: It’s fresh.
    TRADER 1: The flesh is still on the bones.
    TEHELKA: How much does one set weigh?
    TRADER 2: It must be around 14-15 kg.
    TEHELKA: 15 kg!
    TRADER 2: This is a fresh kill… a month old.

    After the display is packed away, the poachers complete the sales pitch by pointing out that this is a perfect set because the claws are intact and the skull has all the canine teeth. After dropping the henchman, Dinesh and our reporter head back to the Gangri Hotel in Dharchula to meet Kailash.

    Tiger Poaching Exposé – Traders show off tiger skins in Dharchula, Uttarakhand

    KAILASH: I can show better (tiger) skin and bones.
    TEHELKA: Here?
    KAILASH: No, in Delhi .
    TEHELKA: That will be convenient.
    KAILASH: I will show five pieces bigger than the one you have seen, longer than the length of this room. Your heart will be thumping when you see them. But first you must pick the stuff you just saw. We’ve to earn first to enable us to arrange the stuff.
    DINESH: And in Delhi it’s perfectly safe. There is no problem at all?
    KAILASH: Yes. If you want we can get the stuff (tiger skins and bones) delivered to your house in Delhi .
    TEHELKA: All five skins?
    KAILASH: Yes, five big ones.
    TEHELKA: What about the small ones? (in the trade the word chhotewale refers to leopard skin).
    KAILASH: You’ll get everything you want. You can get everything sitting in Delhi , just pay us our commission. Now about the earlier deal, let us talk about the money and where to deliver it.

    The undercover team was confronted with a potentially life-threatening situation at this point. They were isolated in Dharchula, a territory controlled by the poaching network. This is a place where cell phones don’t work and it is a miracle to find a working landline. If we backed out at this juncture, our cover would have been blown. So we launched into a torturous negotiation to find a way out of the logjam.

    Poachers offered to sell a tiger skin for Rs. 5.5 lakh and bones for Rs. 1.5 lakh. Officials say the actual ‘trade’ pricing is around Rs. 3 lakh per tiger set

    KAILASH: You have to trust us. The tiger skin and bones you saw are actually meant for a Chinese buyer. It belongs to someone else who has returned from the mela. But I’ve kept it on hold for you.
    TEHELKA: We will pick up this piece. Do you also have rhino horns?
    KAILASH: Yes, you will get that as well.
    TEHELKA: And you can also give us the smaller ones (leopard skins)?
    KAILASH: You’ll get everything you want from Saharanpur (UP), Haridwar (Uttarakhand) and Delhi .
    TEHELKA: Look, you will face no problems when you deal with us. We have the money. Just be a little considerate on the rates.
    KAILASH: Dinesh said you are willing to pay Rs. 7 (lakh) and I said that’s fine. I have been through a lot. Earlier I used to be a carrier in Delhi . I used to operate from Majnu Ka Tila and Sadar Bazaar. I know all the hideouts and stockists in Delhi . If not 7 then at least 6.3. You can get it deposited in my bank account.
    TEHELKA: How can we put so much money into your account? Also you can’t withdraw more than Rs. 15,000 a day from the ATM.
    KAILASH: That is not a problem. I am a contractor and I transact Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 20 lakh on a daily basis.
    TEHELKA: Ok. Let me talk to my boss.

    Kailash has a certain swagger about him. “I don’t take risks anymore,” he tells us. “I have given all the contacts (in Delhi and elsewhere) to Dinesh. Once you pick up the stuff you saw today, you don’t need to keep in touch with me at all. Dinesh will arrange anything you want to buy.”

    We nudged the poachers into revealing their modus operandi and their territory.

    TEHELKA: Where do you source the skins from? Lakhimpur? Corbett?
    KAILASH: You get nothing in the mountains except charas. Everything (animal parts) is available in Delhi . All of this stuff comes into Delhi and moves out of Delhi .
    TEHELKA: From Delhi ?
    KAILASH: Delhi is the main transit point.
    DINESH: All this stuff is booked on flights.

    During this chat, Kailash receives a phone call from one of his wildlife trafficking contacts in Delhi . On our side, we hear… “Tell me, how many big ones (tiger skins) do you have? Around five. Let’s see. How many paniwale (otter skins) do you have? Around 1,500.” Desperate to strike a deal, Kailash suggests payment in Delhi .

    Many intimidating techniques are used to assess the buyer and his intentions. If the potential buyer fails to pass this test, they simply slink away

    KAILASH: I have several trader (bania) friends in Delhi . If you give the money in Delhi , I will get it here in Dharchula through my bania friends… that Agarwal.
    TEHELKA: Where in Delhi ?
    KAILASH: See, there’s a big trader here who receives goods from Delhi . He goes to Delhi to make payments. If your boss gives him money in Delhi , I will get it here.

    This gave the undercover team a cue to escape: we convinced the poachers we would have to go back to arrange the money. Subsequently, we contacted the relevant law enforcement agencies and passed on all actionable intelligence to them.

    “All it takes is just one phone call and everything can be arranged,” Kailash had boasted. He gets regular updates from the Bawariya and Gujjar poaching gangs operating in the forests of north India . He keeps in touch with various layers of middlemen and intermediaries in the poaching network. Dinesh maintains regular human contact with the three big poaching gangs of north India led by Bhima Bawariya, Balku and Gopi. The law enforcement agencies have heard of them but do not have names and faces.

    The undercover team managed to photograph and visually document the gang led by Balku for the first time ever. We have shared this material with law enforcement agencies, especially the National Wildlife Crime Bureau, in the public interest.

    Tiger Poaching Exposé – “Master” shows off skins of four otters

    Our team was introduced to Balku and gang by Dinesh a few months before we ventured into Dharchula. The meeting was at an isolated stretch of a road in Kotdwar, Uttarakhand. The poachers follow a rigorous standard operating procedure when they meet a new ‘party’ (buyer). The ‘party’ is made to wait. Gang members on motorbikes keep watch from a distance.

    All kinds of intimidating techniques are used to assess the buyer and his intentions. If the potential buyer fails to pass this test, they simply slink away, change their numbers and ensure that the details of the suspicious buyer are passed down the poaching network. Fortunately, our team never lost their nerve and were acknowledged by Balku’s gang as a genuine ‘party’.

    All poachers follow two thumb rules. They never reveal in advance where they would display the animal body parts. Second, if the buyer decides to purchase an animal body part, the delivery is undertaken only after an advance is paid. Subsequently, an anonymous carrier functioning on a need-to-know basis delivers the package to the address specified by the buyer and collects the remaining sum.

    The business of wildlife crime is one of stealth and facelessness. From Kotdwar, our team was led by Balku and his gang to Kaladhungi, a romantic hamlet where Jim Corbett once lived. Today, his home is a museum displaying souvenirs, relics and mementos from his famous exploits. What could be more ironic than poachers operating in the forests of the legendary tiger lover? As the poachers escorted our team, gang members spread out to keep a watch on all approaches leading to the dump where a tiger skin and bones were hidden.

    Ominous signs The tiger count has shrunk from 3,640 in 2002 to 1,411 now

    Ominous signs The tiger count has shrunk from 3,640 in 2002 to 1,411 now

    PHOTO: AP

    AFTER A 30-minute trek, Balku signalled everyone to stop. As he straightened his back, stretched his limbs and waited, a gang member walked ahead to retrieve the goods. A few moments later, gang members stepped out from the dense foliage carrying four sacks. Balku held two corners of one sack and dumped a tightly folded tiger skin right in front of TEHELKA’s hidden camera. The other three sacks had 36 kg of bones. Balku explained that his gang had poisoned three tigers. Two died deep inside the forest. By the time the poachers tracked those tigers, their bodies and skin had decomposed. So only the bones could be retrieved.

    Balku revealed that several towns around the Corbett Tiger Reserve had emerged as safe zones to hide tiger skins and bones and body parts of other animals, like leopard and fox skins. East of Corbett: Ramnagar, Kaladhungi and Haldwani. West: Najeebabad. North and Northwest: Kotdwar and the areas between Corbett Tiger Reserve and Rajaji National Park .

    Our team investigated and uncovered these new transit routes that eventually converge at Didihat and from there to Jauljibi and Dharchula. In Kaladhungi and Dharchula, poachers offered to sell a tiger skin for Rs. 5.5 lakh and bones for Rs. 1.5 lakh (at the rate of Rs. 10,000 per kg). Officials tracking wildlife crime say that the actual ‘trade’ pricing is around Rs. 3 lakh per set (skin and bones). Whatever the price, it’s clear that tigers continue to be vulnerable in the very habitats created for them.

    The reality is that despite the obsession to “save the tiger”, India ’s national animal is facing extinction because of poaching. Sixteen sets of tiger body parts were offered to us, all killed in the past eight months. Thus two tigers are killed every month, one every two weeks. Glamorous campaigns on television and hype surrounding fund- raisers for conservation cannot protect India ’s wildlife if there is no actionable intelligence on poacher networks and their operations. This was the reason for our two-month investigation.

    Leopard poachers are easier to find. In Shamlatal, a trader who refused to identify himself, willingly displayed leopard skins on the back seat of a car. Later, a duo willingly escorted our team to the spot where they had hidden two leopard skins. After a rather steep descent into a valley, the poachers pulled out two plastic bags hidden under a large boulder.

    Tiger Poaching Exposé – How the money transactions work

    TEHELKA: There’s a foul smell.
    POACHER: These (skins) have been in storage for several days. To prevent the foul smell one must sprinkle phenyl on it regularly.
    TEHELKA: How long is this skin?
    POACHER: Nine feet.
    TEHELKA: How old is this?
    POACHER: This must be around Holi (meaning, the leopard would have been killed and the skin extracted in March). Do you like it?
    TEHELKA: It’s ok.

    The poachers spread the leopard skin over the rocks. Then they take out the second leopard skin and display it as well.

    TEHELKA: But how will I transport them?
    POACHER: You put your luggage over this. We’ll hire a car. I’ll get my friends and travel with you so that it appears as if we are in a vehicle ferrying passengers. This is common here. Don’t worry, we will figure a way out.

    Poaching mostly happens during the monsoon when the tiger reserves are closed for visitors. Poaching gangs enter the forests with food stocks, other survival essentials and poison. They lay poisoned baits, track the poisoned tigers, wait for them to die, extract the skin and bones, apply preservatives and salt to prevent rotting. There is a generous sprinkling of naphthalene to suppress the smell. They are bundled into sacks, packed into suitcases and anonymously loaded onto jeeps, which are the most visible mode of public transport in Uttarakhand and go virtually unchecked. No wonder, apart from the significant arrest and imprisonment of Sansar Chand (Sansar Chand is India ’s deadliest poacher. Here is how he has escaped legal traps for 40 years, TEHELKA, 7 August), the law enforcement agencies haven’t been able to stop rampant poaching.

    Another species facing an existential threat is the otter. The Asian short-clawed otter is a Schedule I (totally protected species), two other species found in India — Eurasian and smooth-coated — are under Schedule II (endangered species). Along the Sharda river near Tanakpur and Banbasa (Uttarakhand) and Puranpur (UP), hunting otter is a means of livelihood. An otter skin measuring 3 feet and above fetches Rs. 7,000. We met a gang leader who is also a schoolteacher. ‘Master’ took our team to three houses in Puranpur, which had at least five stocks of otter skin.

    TEHELKA: How many pieces do you have?
    POACHER: I don’t have any with me.
    TEHELKA: What I mean is, how many do you know of?
    POACHER: There are five pieces here and many more in other places.

    At this point, TEHELKA’s undercover reporter whips out his cell phone and shoots a few pictures. He explains that he would like to show it to buyers and had already taken permission from the intermediaries who had brought him to Puranpur. But ‘Master’ is angry and offended.

    What could be more ironic than poachers operating in the forest that was once inhabited by the legendary tiger lover, Jim Corbett

    MASTER: Suppose there is checking on the way and these pictures are seen, then what will you say? These aren’t pet animals and we are not allowed to keep them.

    India ’s 39 tiger sanctuaries are the last refuge of Asia ’s most iconic species. Perhaps, the aggressive Kaziranga model is the solution. Armed with guns, the forest guards of the Kaziranga are authorised to shoot poachers at sight. India ’s embarrassing failure provoked an influx of Rs. 201 crore funding for tiger conservation in 2009-10. But pumping in money will hardly serve the purpose. Poaching has dramatically increased in the past three years.

    The tiger is the centrepiece of the country’s conservation efforts, as noted in India’s official Tiger Anthem, composed by Abhishek Ray: Tiger se jungle, jungle se baarish, baarish se nadiya, nadiyo se hai haryali, tiger hai toh hum bhi hain, tum bhi ho, saare Bharat mein hai khushali (From tiger to jungle, from jungle to rain, from rain to river, from river to greenery, on the tiger depends our existence, and the greenery of India). The tiger’s decline portends a wider ecological disaster.

    With inputs from Shweta Sharma in New Delhi

  18. Stray Kaziranga Rhino killed for horns | Watch the video – Yahoo! India
    http://in.news.yahoo.com/video/stray-kaziranga-rhino-killed-horns-053800678.html
    Watch the video Stray Kaziranga Rhino killed for horns on Yahoo! Yahoo!

  19. So not true Stephanie chan

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