| Spate of Tiger &
Leopard Skin Seizures
16th July, 2004
Over the past three
weeks, 10 tiger skins, 25 leopard skins, 4 sacks of
fresh tiger bones, and the claws of 31 tigers and leopards
have been seized in 11 cases throughout India and Nepal.
The Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) was
instrumental in 5 of these cases and we have been stretched
to our limit working with enforcement authorities.
Why this sudden upsurge in wildlife crime activity?
I would like to say that it is a result of improved
enforcement, but that is not the case. A worst-case
scenario is that it is to fulfil orders to replace the
huge seizure of skins in China in October 2003…
It started on 21 June 2004, when the CID Forest Cell
of the Karnataka Police, in Bangalore, seized 2 leopard
skins and 1 tiger skin.
Two days later, on 23 June 2004, 7 leopard skins were
seized by the Katni Forest Department at Budhar near
Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh. Acting on information collected
during the seizure, WPSI facilitated raids in Madhya
Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Investigations revealed links
to poachers in states as far away as Gujarat.
Three days later, the Chennai city police seized 2
tiger skins (which are still to be verified as genuine),
2 antlers and a bottle of snake venom.
On 30 June 2004, the Uttaranchal Forest Department
arrested two men for possession of 28 kg of ivory in
the Dhela Range of Corbett National Park and Sahuwala
Range, Bijnore Plantation Division. The men claimed
that they collected the ivory from a dead tusker.
Two days later, on 2 July 2004, WPSI assisted in a
joint operation of the Forest Department and Police
in raiding a house in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. 456 leopard
and tiger claws were recovered, along with Rs. 6.04
lakhs (approx US$ 13,000) in cash. The accused are absconding.
The very next day, the Forest Department of Pauri and
Rudraprayag seized 3 leopard skins and arrested 6 people
from a hotel in Roorkee, Uttaranchal.
The day after that, on 4 July 2004, the Special Task
Force of the Madhya Pradesh Police seized a tiger skin
and arrested 3 men in Bhopal.
On the same day, intelligence gathered by WPSI led
to the seizure of a tiger skin. Two young men were intercepted
by the Forest Department and WPSI while transporting
a tiger skin on a motorbike near Alapalli in the Gadchiroli
district of Madhya Pradesh.
A day later, WPSI assisted in a joint operation by
the Forest and Police Departments which culminated in
the seizure of 1 tiger skin and 3 leopard skins. Four
men were arrested while transporting the skins in a
taxi jeep near Made-Amgaon on the Regadi-Ghot road.
Their jeep was also seized. Mr. B.S.K. Reddy, Conservator
of Forests, South Chanda Division, and Mr. Shirish Jain,
Additional Superintendent of Police, Aheri, directed
the Forest and Police personnel.
On 6 July 2004, the Chennai city police seized 2 tiger
skins (still to be verified as genuine), 1 leopard skin,
1 leopard cat skin and 42 pairs of tiger claws in a
suburban railway station. While the tiger skins are
suspected to be fake, the other animal articles are
On the very same day, Mr. Malik, Wildlife Inspector
from Sonipat arrived in Samalkha, Haryana, to arrest
an accused of the WPSI-assisted 15 leopard skin seizure
in Sonipat on 11 June 2004. To his surprise, he found
one leopard skin being dried on the roof of the house.
The Samalkha police arrested one person.
And lastly, on 11 July at Bouddha in Nepal, a 24-year-old
man was arrested with 2 tiger skins, 8 leopard skins,
4 sacks of fresh tiger bones, and 1 sack of rhino bones
What is particularly alarming is that none of these
seizures are a result of a concerted, coordinated drive.
They are chance encounters, based on tip offs from inter-gang
rivalries. We can only speculate on how many have been
The tragedy is that many of the people who were arrested,
or who the accused claimed they were supplying to, are
well-known, repeat offenders. Much of wildlife crime
in India is a traditional, family business, right from
the nomadic poachers who carry out the actual killings
to the city-based traders who have contacts in Nepal
and China. Because of their tendency to work in their
own cliques and keep everything within a close-knit
circle, most major wildlife criminals are already well
documented in Police and Forest Department records.
It is now crucial for India to set up a centralised,
dedicated Wildlife Crime Unit. Ideally, we believe that
it should be a multi-agency, independent unit, with
highly motivated officers drawn from national forest,
police and paramilitary forces. Its officers should
be trained in wildlife crime investigations, including
gathering and analysing intelligence. They should be
well equipped and mobile. Since wildlife criminals have
international links, the Unit should work in tandem
with Interpol, international customs agencies and CITES
enforcement officials. The key to the success of the
Unit will be its ability to collaborate with State enforcement
officials, while reporting to the Central government,
preferably the Home Affairs Ministry.
We ask you to urgently email the following people and
request that an effective Wildlife Crime Unit be set
up immediately in India, to tackle the escalating illegal
trade in endangered species. Please feel free to mention
the Wildlife Protection Society of India’s figures
and grave concerns:
Shri Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
Shri A. Raja, Minister for Environment and Forests
Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, National Advisory Council