|Indian state OKs shooting tiger poachers on sight
23 May 2012
DELHI — A state in western India has declared war on animal poaching by
sanctioning its forest guards to shoot hunters on sight in an effort to
curb rampant attacks against tigers and other wildlife.
The government in Maharashtra says injuring or killing suspected poachers will no longer be considered a crime.
guards should not be "booked for human rights violations when they have
taken action against poachers," Maharashtra Forest Minister Patangrao
Kadam said Tuesday. The state also will send more rangers and jeeps
into the forest, and will offer secret payments to informers who give
tips about poachers and animal smugglers, he said.
against poachers may be only bluster. No tiger poachers have ever been
shot in Maharashtra before, though cases of shooting illegal loggers
and fishermen have led to charges against forest guards, according to
the state's chief wildlife warden, S.W.H. Naqvi.
But the threat
could act as a significant deterrent to wildlife criminals,
conservationists said. A similar measure allowing guards to fire on
poachers in Assam has helped the northeast state's population of
endangered one-horned rhinos recover.
"These poachers have lost
all fear. They just go in and poach what they want because they know
the risks are low," said Divyabhanusinh Chavda, who heads the World
Wildlife Fund in India and is a key member of the National Wildlife
Board, which advises the prime minister. In many of India's reserves,
guards are armed with little more than sticks.
intense international scrutiny over its tiger conservation, as the
country holds half of the world's estimated 3,200 tigers in dozens of
wildlife reserves set up since the 1970s, when hunting was banned.
poaching remains a stubborn and serious threat, with tiger parts in
particular fetching high prices on the black market thanks to demand
driven by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.
to the Wildlife Protection Society of India, 14 tigers have been killed
by poachers in India so far this year – one more than in all of 2011.
The tiger is considered endangered, with its habitat range shrinking
more than 50 percent in the last quarter-century while its numbers
declined from the 5,000-7,000 estimated in the 1990s, according to the
International Union for Conservation of Nature.