Seizure of tiger bones shows big cats still a target
10 Jul 2008, 0619 hrs IST, Avijit Ghosh,TNN
NEW DELHI: The dirty double-storey building with a couple of kids playing inside was hardly any different from other homes in Gurgaon’s Suratnagar area. But when Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) officials, with Gurgaon cops in tow, walked into one of the rooms on the first floor and opened a polythene bag kept there, they immediately knew the informer was on the ball. The bag contained 15 kg of tiger bones.
“Tiger bones and body parts — penis, testicles, canines — all highly valued in the illegal international market, were part of the haul. The tiger’s fat was also kept in a bottle. It was a fresh kill,” says B S Gurum, assistant director, WCCB, who took part in the Monday evening raid. Nobody was arrested.
The haul, one of the biggest in the NCR in recent times, has only added to the worries of officials and activists involved in wildlife security. “This seizure indicates that Delhi and surrounding cities are still hotspots for the illegal wildlife trade,” says Belinda Wright of Wildlife Protection Society of India.
Interestingly, even though Delhi has no national parks, the city has more wildlife cases than anywhere else in India. Adds Wright, “At present, there are over 250 wildlife cases pending in Delhi courts regarding species not found in this area. Delhi has always been a centre for illegal wildlife trade.”
According to the latest census released in February this year, only about 1,400-1,500 tigers survive in India. Countrywide reports on tiger deaths this year show that the big cat has been poisoned, killed in road accidents, mortally wounded in alleged territorial fights or trapped and killed by poachers.
WCCB officials say that the Gurgaon raid has also yielded 19 tools and traps and chisels that poachers use to catch wildlife. In May, a tiger was ensnared in a brutal leg-hold trap in Valmiki Tiger Reserve, located in Bihar’s west Champaran district. The animal succumbed to its injuries later.
Several tigers have died in the past seven weeks. In June, reports said that a sub-adult male tiger was found dead at Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu. One of its bones was broken. On May 16, a tiger was found dead of suspected poisoning in the outer section of the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.
According to wildlife officials, the tiger could have been a victim of man-animal conflict. But they did not rule out the role of poachers from the Bawariya tribe. Even in the Gurgaon case, wildlife officials suspect the hand of one Bheema Bawariya, who has a slew of wildlife cases slapped against him.