|Maharashtra says shoot poachers, debate is about how else to stop them
Vivek Deshpande : Nagpur, Tue May 29 2012
allowing forest staff to fire on poachers, Maharashtra’s stated
objective was to protect its tigers. The challenge in meeting that,
however, is to curb the means that poachers use on tigers, those
working on the ground say.
Forest Minister Patangrao Kadam said
last week he had issued orders to provide forest staff with firearms
and decided to protect them from criminal proceedings should they use
these against people caught poaching or smuggling forest wealth.
“Poachers are out for supari killings of 25 tigers,” he told The Indian
Express. “Now if we don’t prevent poachers from killing tigers, what
are we expected to do? Officers raised the issue of problems faced by
them in the field. By shooting freedom, I meant the officers have to
take the call proportional to the situation and use guns if the
situation warrants it. We will protect them if they have used guns as
per prescriptions, and will not protect them if a magisterial inquiry
reveals unwarranted firing.”
Some of the supporters of the order
have cited the need to contain timber smugglers, who are often armed.
Tiger poachers, on the other hand, never use guns, said Nitin Desai,
Central India director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.
This is because bullet holes would make the tiger skin unfit for the
“The ground-level staff need basic training in
understanding how poachers work,” said Desai. “Poachers have
generations of knowledge of how to finish off a job without getting
noticed. They are not only experts in locating tigers but also thorough
in understanding tiger behaviour, with contacts for intelligence and
active help from locals.”
Saving the tiger
key,” said principal secretary (forest) Pravin Pardeshi. “We have
recruited nearly 1,200 new guards. All are being trained in foot
patrolling with experienced guards and through training schools.” He
stressed the need to involve local people in vigilance.
animals poached, only two in every 10 are shot dead. According to the
findings of the WPSI, which works with states across the country, four
in 10 animals are killed by electrocution, two by trapping and the
remaining two by poisoning.
Electrocution can be curbed only
with joint monitoring by the forest and electricity departments. “[It]
should lead to immediate tripping of electricity and the location
should be easily found by electricity officials,” Desai said. “But in
many cases tripping doesn’t happen, putting a question mark over how
technically foolproof electrical installations are.” He cited the
recent electrocution of leopards at Pench, over which the forest
department has registered offences against Mahavitaran, the