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Tiger poachers behind killing of Gir Lions


April 7th, 2007

There 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 Chinese medicine.

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.


 

 

 

 

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