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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 genuine.

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 and skins.

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 missed.

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
Email: <>

Shri A. Raja, Minister for Environment and Forests
Email: <>

Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, National Advisory Council
Email: <>




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