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India's tigers in losing battle against poach

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KANHA TIGER RESERVE, India (Reuters) - On a routine patrol of a vast jungle in the central highlands in April, forest guards came across a gruesome scene.

Flies swarmed beside thick undergrowth where a tiger lay dead: together with maggots, they had reduced the animal's once-magnificent, gold-and-black striped body to a putrid, hollowed carcass.

"Poachers poisoned the tiger but could not carry it away," said Khageshwar Nayak, chief of Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, which was made famous in the jungle tales of Rudyard Kipling.

After three decades of serving the Indian Forest Service, Nayak has concluded that the killing of tigers is unstoppable.

"Even if you make thousands of strategies, you cannot stop poaching. You cannot make it zero," said Nayak, sitting in his air-conditioned office from where he surveys the 1,949 square km wildlife reserve, home to 129 tigers.

Conservationists say that India, which has about half of the world's surviving tigers, is losing a battle to save the big cats.

"Poaching is the main reason why we are losing the tiger. At the current rate, we could lose them all in 20-50 years," said Rahul Kaul, director of the Wildlife Trust of India.

About a century ago, there were some 40,000 tigers in India. But decades of hunting by the boisterous sons of innumerable royalties and poaching have cut their number to some 3,700 today. Some conservationists say the population could be under 2,000.

Authorities say poachers killed at least 114 tigers across India between 1999 and 2003, while just 59 died of natural causes during that period.

Forty-three tigers were killed by poachers last year alone, up from 34 in 2004, when a big-cat census was last carried out.

Forest officials concede the numbers could be much higher.

"(It is) certainly possible there could be tigers killed and taken away without us coming to know," said Nayak. "For every two reported cases, (there are) two unreported cases. That is my guess."

UNCERTAIN FATE

What's worrying for conservationists is that the Kanha reserve is considered among the safest. Recently, four tigers were found dead -- two of them poisoned by poachers -- inside Jim Corbett National Park at the foothills of the eastern Himalayas.

The alarming fall -- in one reserve in western India all 16-18 tigers disappeared in a year -- triggered national concern last year, prompting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to order a police probe and set up a special panel to stop the decline.

The panel later said the country's big cats were under siege from poachers and people living in protected jungles, and called for thousands of villagers inside India's 28 tiger reserves to be relocated to save the endangered animals.

Poachers and smugglers of both tigers and elephants exploit the grinding poverty of forest villagers to keep them on their side. Authorities have tried educating the villagers, handing out monetary incentives and drafting them as informants, but to little avail.

POISON, ELECTROCUTION

Officials say the preferred weapon of poachers is a deadly cocktail of cheap chemicals and pesticides which is left in chunks of beef on a tiger's path. Poachers then return at night, skin the animal, chop it up and carry the pieces away in bags.

A few years ago, electrocution was more common: high-voltage powerlines connected to a wire-trip on the ground did the job.

This was risky and forest patrols often discovered the traps, said Nayak, who walks for hours through Kanha's rolling grasslands and among tall Sal trees looking for tell-tale signs of poachers, perhaps a smouldering campfire or cigarette butts.

Indian reserves rely on guards armed with antiquated rifles and sometimes just sticks. Only one reserve in the eastern Sunderbans forest has started using hi-tech surveillance equipment such as satellite tracking.

Indian authorities say saving the tiger is almost impossible without the help of China, the biggest market for big cat parts that are used in traditional Chinese medicines.

"China's help is vital. There is no market for tiger parts in India. But across the border there is a great demand. They can help by curbing that market," Rajesh Gopal, head of the state-run conservation agency Project Tiger, told Reuters in a recent interview.

Tiger parts such as bones and penises are used in traditional Chinese medicine, and a single tiger can fetch up to $50,000 in the international market.

Conservationists say there has been a sharp rise in the poaching of tigers and leopards in India in recent years to feed an explosion of demand from Tibet, where an ancient tradition of wearing animal furs seemed to have been revived, partly perhaps as a result of greater disposable income.

India and China signed an agreement in 1995 to help conserve the tiger but experts say it has been of little help.

The crisis has prompted India to strengthen existing laws in a country where the conviction rate for killing endangered species is less than 5 percent, with most offenders getting away for lack of evidence.

But Nayak says laws alone can not save the tigers.

"The main problem is the illicit trade. If that can not be checked whatever measure you take will be futile."

Source

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Poor tigers. :( They really ought to be taking the caught poachers and make a public killing of their death to serve as a warning. I doubt India could really afford to place gps trackers on all their tigers to. :hmm:

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We have many National Parks that are protecting tigers. The majoriy of the tigers DO have a radio collar, but it is hard to catch these poachers.

The national parks are doing a great job of bringing back these tigers, especially Rajastan.

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Posted (edited)

^Indeed, we are trying but the scum of society is still undermining these efforts being made to ensure the survival of this beautiful creature. I personally would ove to see a poaching squad set up to hunt down these poachers, kill them and sell their body parts as I`m sure there would be buyers. With the proceeds going to the conservation effort of course! :tu:

Edited by AztecInca

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Indeed, we are trying but the scum of society is still undermining these efforts being made to ensure the survival of this beautiful creature. I personally would ove to see a poaching squad set up to hunt down these poachers, kill them and sell their body parts as I`m sure there would be buyers. With the proceeds going to the conservation effort of course!

In africa and India, the terrain is so rough and Parks are so large that is is very hard to catch poachers. Its not like a National park in America or such, these parks are huge, and have areas that are almost impossible to access. Rangers have been patrolling for poachers, but it is a daunting task.

LOL Aztec...

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I have an idea....if a Tiger brings $50,000, put a price on a Poachers head of $75,000.

Do I really have to solve all the worlds problems with out getting paid for it? <_<

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Where would the world be without you joc?

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We have many National Parks that are protecting tigers. The majoriy of the tigers DO have a radio collar, but it is hard to catch these poachers.

The national parks are doing a great job of bringing back these tigers, especially Rajastan.

I watched a documentary on Discovery Animal Planet...a place in India...that was a safe haven for tigers...it was run by monks I think I am not sure!!

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