Tiger poachers behind killing of Gir Lions
April 7th, 2007
has been a breakthrough in the Gir lion killing case. WPSI received a
message from a senior police officer in Gujarat early this morning to
say that 17 people, including 15 women, had been arrested with lion
claws and a number of poaching tools. The message added that “I
am indeed sincerely grateful to you for the precious and very timely
inputs you gave”. The accused will be produced in court today.
WPSI's suspicions have proved correct. The accused are traditional
tiger poachers from Itarsi and Katni, in the central Indian state of
Madhya Pradesh. This serious new development points to the fact that
since tigers are so scarce in the wild, these poachers are now
targeting the last remaining population of Asiatic Lions. Gir’s
lions are an easy target, since they are comparatively used to people
and live in open scrub forest. Their bones are also virtually
indistinguishable from those of tigers. There is no market for big cat
parts in India, and their poaching and the trade is entirely driven by
demand from outside India’s borders, for use in traditional
So far six lion carcasses have been found in Gir, on 3rd and 30th March
this year, all with their bones and claws missing. Evidence was found
of steel traps, and the fact that the lions had probably been speared
to death. There are fears that at least five other lions are missing
from the Babaria Forest Range where the two poaching incidents took
place. Gir National Park, the last stronghold of the Asiatic lion, is
believed to hold a population of around 360 lions.
The Gujarat police contacted WPSI after the case was handed over to the
State CID Crime Branch, and our anti-poaching experts have been working
closely with the Gujarat police for the past few weeks to crack the
case. The dogged diligence with which this lion poaching case has been
pursued by the CID, and in particular Inspector General of Police CID,
Mr Keshav Kumar, who is heading the investigation, is an example to
enforcement agencies anywhere in the world.
As the news spreads, there is great jubilation in Gujarat. However the
real work to secure the case begins now. Of primary concern is where
the traps have been hidden, and where the bones have been taken.
WPSI’s legal department is standing by to assist in the
prosecution of this important case, and our lawyer will be leaving
shortly for Gujarat.