Bihar tiger count drops as poachers strike at will

Bihar tiger count drops as poachers strike at will
UNDER THREAT: As many as 33 tigers have gone missing from Valmiki Tiger Reserve in four years.

Published on Mon, Feb 11, 2008 at 08:38,
Updated at Mon, Feb 11, 2008 in Nation section
Prabhakar Kumar

Patna: Till four years ago, the Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Bihar used to boast of a substantial tiger population. But in these years, their numbers have dropped from 56 to 23, thanks to the thriving poaching mafia on either side of the Indo-Nepal border.

According to a CAG report released late last year, the number of tigers was down to 33 in 2005, when the last census was conducted, down from 56 counted in 2002. The CAG report is, however, silent about the reason behind the disappearance of tigers at this tiger reserve.

The Valmiki forest is a notified reserved area and is supposed to be guarded round the clock. But the tiger and deer skin seized by SSB jawans reveal the real story.

“Jab se hamari movement shuru hui hai, taab se woh log fanda laga kaar marte hai ki kisi ko pata na chale, (Ever since the SSB was deployed here, the poachers have adopted a new approach to catch tigers. They use traps to catch tigers nowadays.),” SSB Commandant HS Gaddey reveals.

A poacher who agreed to speak to CNN-IBN confirmed the commandant’s words.

“Jaidataar jaal bicha kaar humlog ke group main 10-12 log rahte hai. Shikar ko idhar se khaderte hai. Aur shikar jaaal main faas jata hai. Pathar se maarte hain… jisse chal par bhi bura prabhav na pare… lathi se marna jaada acha rahta hai… usse daam acha mill jata hai , (We cast a net to catch it and then drag it out. Generally 10 or 12 of us go for hunt in a group. We generally use stones to kill the cath. But it’s better to use rods, this causes little harm to the skin and that earns us a good price),” Ramanuj, allegedly a poacher, reveals.

On their part, the government authorities seem to lack in both infrastructure and will to deal with poachers and criminals and protect the tigers.

Authorities say it is difficult to keep a check on the poaching mafia in the Valmiki forests as it extends across the border to Nepal. But poachers say local police and wildlife officials are part of the racket.

“Bina van adhikariwo ko nazrana diye kuch nahi hoga (you can’t do anything without bribing the forest officials),” Ramanuj claims.

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