| India's Tiger Poaching Crisis
recently, habitat loss was thought to be the largest single threat to
the future of wild tigers in India. It has now been established that
the trade in tiger bones, destined for use in Oriental medicine outside
India's borders, is posing an even larger threat. Having decimated
their own sources, Far Eastern traditional medicine manufacturers are
now targeting India for their supply of tiger bones. Poaching of tigers
for the traditional Chinese medicine industry started in northern India
in the mid-1980's.
carried out in 1993-94, during which a total of 36 tiger skins and 667
kilos (1470 pounds) of tiger bones were seized in northern India,
brought to light the severity of the problem. The illegal trade is now
widespread and in the hands of ruthless, sophisticated operators, some
of whom have top level patronage. There is also evidence that profits
from the wildlife trade are increasingly being used to fund armed
insurgency in north-east and north-west India. A tiger can be killed
for as little as just over a dollar for the cost of poison, or $9 for a
steel trap. Much of the tiger poaching is done by tribals who know
their forests well. They are usually paid a meager amount (in a case
near Kanha Tiger Reserve, in May 1994, a trader paid four poachers $15
each for killing a tiger), their hunting talents and knowledge
exploited by greedy traders. It is these traders and the middlemen who
make substantial profits from the illegal trade in tiger parts.
general offence under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, attracts a
maximum sentence of three years imprisonment or a fine which may extend
to Rs. 25,000 or both.
An offence involving a species listed in
Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II, or an offence committed within a
sanctuary or natural park, attracts a mandatory prison term of three
years, which may extend to seven years. There is also a mandatory fine
of at least Rs. 10,000. For a subsequent offence, the prison term
remains the same, while the mandatory fine is at least Rs.25,000.
offence committed inside the core area of a Tiger Reserve, attracts a
mandatory prison term of three years, extendable to seven years and a
fine of Rs. 50,000 extendable to Rs. 2 lakhs. In case of a subsequent
conviction of this nature, there is an imprisonment term of at least
seven years and a fine of Rs. 5 lakhs which may extend to Rs. 50 lakhs.
these penalties, the laws are difficult to enforce. WPSI's wildlife
crime database has records of over 900 tiger-related court cases, but
only a few of these have resulted in convictions and most are still
pending in the courts. To date, WPSI has records of only 61 people that
have been convicted for killing a tiger or trading in tiger parts.
Poachers use one of the following methods to kill a wild tiger:
- which is usually placed in the carcasses of domestic buffaloes
and cows. During the dry, hot summer months small forest pools are also
poisoned by poachers, or depressions dug and filled with water for this
purpose. There is a sophisticated and well organised supply route
operated by the major traders, to distribute poison and collect tiger
bones from the remotest villages. .
Steel Traps -
which are made by nomadic blacksmiths. These traps are immensely
strong. In a tiger poaching case near Raipur in 1994, it took six adult
men to open a trap. In one area in central India, investigators found
that so many steel traps had been set that the villagers were fearful
of going into the forest. People have received dreadful injuries from
Firearms - are used where hunting can be carried out with little hindrance.
Electrocution - by tapping 230 volts -11KV overhead electrical wires and laying a live wire on animal tracts.
Tiger poaching occurs in all areas
where large number of tigers have been recorded. Poaching is
particularly prevalent in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh,
West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala,
Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Assam.