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Fighting chance for India's tigers: Poaching declines

 

February 8, 2012 IANS New Delhi

In cheering news for wildlife conservationists, tiger poaching dropped nearly 60 percent in 2011 as compared to the previous year, though it continues to pose a major threat to the survival of the big cat in the country, a leading NGO said.

According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), 13 tigers were hunted last year as compared to 30 in 2010 - a decline of 57 percent. The bodies of poached tigers, seized bones and skins were computed to arrive at the figures.

Adding other factors like road accidents, infighting, fighting with other animals, electrocution, found dead, and rescue and treatment, the overall toll rises to 61. In 2010, it was 58.

However, top on the list of WPSI's tiger mortality is the found dead figure, 21.

The toll from infighting was the same as that of poaching. In the previous year, 10 tigers died in such fights.

"There has been definitely a decrease in poaching cases in 2011 compared to 2010, but it does not mean poaching has stopped," WPSI's Tito Joseph said.

"This could be due to effective patrolling strategies adopted by the tiger authority (National Tiger Conservation Authority) in coordination with other agencies," Joseph said.

The illegal wildlife trade continues to be a major threat to tigers.

Joseph said traders were offering huge amounts of money in black markets for tiger body parts.

"Recently trade activities were detected in Vietnam and Cambodia. The threat is not only from China (a known hub for such trade) but also from Southeast Asian countries," he said.

"We need to be vigilant 24 hours 365 days," Joseph said.

"Wildlife articles always have a very premium market and prices are not going to come down easily," U.C. Tiwari, wildlife warden of the Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand, told IANS.

The 1,200-plus sq km Corbett sanctuary is one of the 39 tiger reserves in the country.

The poaching figure only reflects the cases that come to light and it may not truly reflect the ground condition, said Tiwari. He warned that the situation could turn alarming if the mortality rate of adult tigers rises.

"Because adult tigers don't die easily,... there has to be some extraordinary circumstance."

According to WPSI, of the 21 tigers found dead in 2011 many were adult tigers. In 2010, 15 tigers were found dead.

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