We, Indians are facing a bizarre and rather unbelievable situation. We, because of our selfish nature are on the verge of virtually making extinct the last of the big cats in the wild. Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and United Nations organisation binds India to rules that prevent trade in endangered species. The assault on the tiger in India, due to a breakdown of forest management and corruption, can compel CITES into taking action against India as per the rules of this UN arm. CITES has the authority to impose trade sanctions on a member-country that has not adhered to the norms that govern this body. That is how important tiger protection is. However it still doesnot seem IMPORTANT enough for the Indian ministries and officials.
Today's Telegraph newspaper gives us proof of another very unpleasant & horrifying news -
The Indian tiger is heading rapidly towards extinction, thanks to a new breed of wealthy Tibetans who prize the skins as trimming for their traditional costumes, an investigation has shown. Hearing rumours that the new Tibetan trend for skins was behind the rapid increase in poaching, a team from the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) went to Tibet and the Sichuan and Gansu provinces in China.
At horse festivals in Tibet and Sichuan, dancers, riders and spectators wandered about, openly wearing the traditional chuba, generously trimmed with tiger and leopard skin, while organisers and local officials joined in.Traders said the demand for the skins was coming from the newly-moneyed classes who had made small fortunes from selling a local caterpillar fungus used in Chinese medicine.
The skins are smuggled along well-established Nepali trading routes into Tibet where they are sold openly in shops in capital Lhasa. Wildlife experts accuse the Indian and Chinese governments of seriously underestimating the scale of the problem and, through a mixture of corruption and bureaucratic inertia, failing to address it.
Complete story here....
India has the largest tiger population in the world. However, the tiger population has fallen to 3,500 (according to the 2002 tiger census) from around 4,300 just 11 years ago. Poaching is believed to the main reason behind the decline in tiger numbers in Sariska and other Indian tiger reserves. In 2004, the tiger count for the state was 65, including 47 in Ranthambore, 18 in Sariska and one tiger in the Bharatpur reserve. However, today there are only 29 tigers left in Rajasthan's famous Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and 'No' tigers in Sariska, according to the latest official census.The tacit or active participation of wildlife authorities and park staff is also suspected.
Environmentalists confirm that the menace of poaching is very virulent across Asia and there is a decline in tiger populations in most countries, whether it is Laos, Myanmar (Burma) or Cambodia. Tigers are becoming virtually extinct in many of these countries.
According to many nature conversation societies, there seems to be a serious problem with the way tiger conservation is handled. Institutions and officials responsible are not doing their jobs, which has resulted in faulty plan implementations. It is important that Sanctuaries have specialised management.
The worst problem however is the rise in demand for the tiger skin in West Asia. In October 2004, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reported the existence of well-organised syndicates trafficking tiger and leopard skins between India, Nepal, Tibet and China. In October 2003, customs officials in Tibet intercepted a record haul of 31 tiger skins and 581 leopard skins being trucked to the capital Lhasa.
It's high time that the Indian government and the people realise that saving the tiger is a precious goal because it involves saving the entire ecosystem. The tiger is the apex predator. If the tiger has to survive, the entire forest has to be healthy. Hence, focusing on the tiger actually achieves much more than merely ensuring the survival of one species.
Important Links -
Here is a book extract from 'THE LAST WILD TIGERS' by Peter Matthiessen, a must read for all the wild-life lovers.
Homepage of 'Project Tiger', which was formed in 1972 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and was launched on the 1st April 1973 at Corbett National Park. It's aims were, to ensure maintenance of a viable population of tigers in India for scientific, economic, aesthetic, cultural and ecological values. To preserve, for all times, areas of such biological importance as a national heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people.
Homepage of Indian Tiger Welfare Society
Another article on Tiger Poaching in today's TOI.
"Unlike in elephant poaching, where the poacher leaves behind the carcass, the tiger poacher takes away the entire body and leaves nothing behind,"Biswajit Mohanty of the Wildlife Society of Orissa said, highlighting why tiger poaching isn't always easy to detect.
"Because right from its skin to nails, eyes, toes, teeth, tail, everything is sold. There were seven cases of leopards and tiger seizures in the last four months in Orissa but no poaching cases were registered," he said.
According to Wildlife Trust of India vice-chairman Ashok Kumar, who has moved a PIL in the Supreme Court challenging official Simlipal tiger figures, "The number of tigers is not more than 30 as per our information. It is true that there are plenty of water bodies in the sanctuary and it is also a dense forest. But as per our information, professional poachers are very much active in Simlipal. We have also moved a PIL in the Supreme Court, saying the number has dwindled to 30."