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Urgent Need for a Specialised Enforcement Unit in India to Deal with the Growing Illegal Trade in Tiger Skins

9th Nov., 2004

India urgently needs to create a specialised enforcement unit to deal with wildlife crime if it is to tackle the illegal trade in tiger skins and save India’s wild tigers from extinction, said the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) today.

The skin trade appears to be spiralling out of control. The seizure of 31 tiger and 581 leopard skins in Tibet in October last year shocked the international community and revealed the true extent of the growing illegal trade in skins sourced in India. The fact that the skins were all transported in one vehicle, illustrated the confidence of these criminal gangs who are highly organised and smuggle skins across the international borders between India, Nepal and China. A number of the skins seized were wrapped in Delhi newspapers.

Debbie Banks, Senior Campaigner at EIA, said; “A specialised unit that can investigate the urban and cross-border trade in tiger and leopard skins and engage with counterpart agencies at a regional level would make a real difference.”

Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) said; “There have been many seizures made in India in the past ten years, but the lack of a dedicated agency to follow up and investigate intelligence gathered at crime scenes means that the masterminds behind the skin trade manage to escape scot-free.”

Ashok Kumar of WTI said; “The unit can be created in an inexpensive and uncontroversial manner by bringing together officers from a range of enforcement agencies in India, with a qualified intelligence analyst and legal officer. This is the only effective way to tackle the networks of dealers who operate outside of the forest areas”.

At the 11th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in 2000, India made a commitment to establish a dedicated unit to tackle wildlife crime; at the present time this unit has not been created.

WTI, WPSI, EIA and WWF India have jointly called upon the Prime Minister of India to ensure action is taken to create a multi-agency specialised enforcement unit capable of combating wildlife crime.

Intelligence gathered from seizures in India, Nepal and China needs to be communicated quickly and effectively between enforcement agencies in source, transit and destination countries. India, Nepal and China need to establish effective mechanisms for sharing intelligence and they need to look closely at improving their ability to cooperate on cross-border enforcement operations if the skin trade is to be tackled in a meaningful and effective manner.

 

 

 

 

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