Friday 18 August 2017 News Updated at 10:08 AM IST
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Alarming rise in tiger poaching - Deccan Herald
Alarming rise in tiger poaching
DH News Service,
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Poachers are killing India's tigers in larger numbers than in previous years. According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), there were 50 poaching-related deaths in the country in 2016, the highest in 15 years. This is reason for concern. Trading in tiger parts is illegal as is the killing of tigers. Yet, it continues unabated. Poachers are reported to be using innovative methods to trap the big cats. Snares made of bicycle cable wires and live wires are being used to trap animals. Wildlife conservationists point out that since these traps do not discriminate one animal from another, they not only kill tigers but also other animals like deer on which the tigers prey. Hence, these snares deal multiple blows to wildlife. They trap tigers, shrink their prey base and also result in killing of other species. Importantly, the impact of a tiger being trapped by poachers goes beyond the loss of a single animal. The trapping and killing of a female tiger, for instance, often results in the death of her cubs too as cubs rarely survive in the wild without mother's protection.

Over a lakh tigers roamed Asia's forests a century ago but their numbers dropped precipitously, prompting wildlife experts to declare it an endangered animal. Several countries, like India, which are tiger habitats, launched well-funded programmes to conserve this animal. The efforts paid off. Tiger numbers increased from 1,411 in 2006 to 3,891 in 2016. This is heartening but it is too early to celebrate as threats to tigers continue. Tiger habitats are shrinking and man-tiger conflicts are growing. And as the WPSI figures underscore, the threat from poachers persists.

Tiger parts are in demand as they are important ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine. The global trade in tigers is a lucrative one; it is said to be worth around $19 billion annually. Thus, there are powerful vested interests working to keep this business alive. Recently, authorities at the Corbett Tiger Reserve issued shoot-at-sight orders against poachers. While this is a stringent measure to deal with poachers, it is not always useful as the person who is shot or arrested is often a poor local tribal who helps carry the dead tiger, while those higher up in the chain, who orchestrate the operations, escape unscathed. The tiger trade is run by international criminal syndicates and these can be defeated only with inter-state cooperation. India, Nepal and Bhutan, which are major tiger habitats, need to work with China, the main market for tiger parts, to crack down on poaching. The police-poacher link needs to be broken. Preventing poaching is not easy but it is not impossible.