29 May 2008, 0227 hrs IST,Avijit Ghosh,TNN
NEW DELHI: Summer can be dangerous for the endangered tiger. Three more tigers have been killed this May by bullets, iron trap and poison ? one each in Bihar, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh. That apart, one tiger skin has been seized in Maharashtra.
“Poachers are most active during the summer months. This is when most waterholes dry up. The vegetation dies. Poachers can also comfortably camp out and it is easy to follow their target. Prices for tiger parts such as skins, bones and other parts have skyrocketed, and this summer there is more incentive for poachers than ever before,” says Belinda Wright of Wildlife Protection Society of India. According to the latest census released in February this year, about 1,400-1,500 tigers survive in India.
At the Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Bihar’s west Champaran district, a tiger was ensnared in a brutal leg-hold trap. The animal died later. Wildlife activists believe the modus operandi carries the signature of poachers from the hunting tribe, Bawariya. Records show some members of the tribe have been involved in wildlife crimes in different parts of India. S Chandrashekhar, DFO, Valmiki reserve, says a new form of trap was laid out for the big cat.
But he is “undecided whether it was the handiwork of the locals or poachers from outside”. Back in December 2006, paramilitary forces looking after the Indo-Nepal border had seized one tiger skin at Valmiki reserve. The tiger reserve, bordering Nepal’s Royal Chitwan National Park, is vulnerable to poaching. In fact, two years ago, Nepal forest officials had raided a Bawariya camp in Birganj, a Nepal border town, and seized leopard and tiger skins.
On May 16, another tiger was found dead of suspected poisoning in the outer section of the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. P P Singh, deputy director of the reserve says that “the post-mortem reports are unclear about the tiger’s cause of death”. According to him, it is possible the tiger was a victim of man-animal conflict. “A tiger had killed two villagers a few months ago and this could be a revenge killing,” he says.
But Singh also points out that four poachers belonging to the Bawariya tribe were arrested in these parts in 2007 for killing a tiger. In Karnataka’s Kodagu district, a tiger was shot dead allegedly by a local plantation owner on the border of the Brahmagiri sanctuary. The man has been arrested. “It was a deliberate, cold-blooded murder where an unlicensed gun was used. The killer had even chopped off the tiger’s legs and taken out its claws,” says K S N Chikkerur, IGP (CID) Forest, Karnataka. But the top cop admits that poachers are active in these parts. “They do come down and operate here,” he says. That’s more bad news for the tigers.
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