Tiger poaching is back

Poachers killing tigers for money are back with vengeance with seizure of at-least seven tiger skins and over 160 kilogram of tiger bones in the Tibet-Nepal border hinting at revival of the popular smuggling route into China.

Three major tiger and leopard body part hauls in different districts of Nepal in the month of January has triggered panic among the wild-lifers who claim that the recent seizures show that the magnitude of tiger killing in India is much more than reflected in the government’s official records.

The government has claimed that around 80 tigers were killed in India including for poaching in 2012 whereas the seizures of tiger body parts in the year was much higher.

The biggest hauls of recent times came on January 12 when Nepal police seized five tiger skins and about 114 kilograms of tiger bones in bags in Nawakot district very close to Tibet border.

The body parts were being smuggled through a van meant to transport rice for the underground Chinese big cat medicine industry and two persons were arrested in this connection.

The tiger skins and plastic bags containing bones were hidden under rice sacks, officials said after the seizure.

A day earlier, in Gorkha district about 160 km west from capital city of Kathmandu, Nepal police arrested with Tibetans with two tiger skins and 53 kilograms of tiger bones.

They were arrested while they were trying to smuggle the tiger parts to Tibet, China, officials said.

On January 27, the Nepalese authorities seized three leopard skins in Kanchanpur district of Nepal, which is very close to fine home of tigers in India, Uttarakhand.

Tigers in Corbett National Park in the state had been under stress for some time because of increasing poaching threat in the tiger reserve having highest tiger density in the country.

Anil Baluni, former vice-chairperson of Uttarakhand Forest Advisory body, believes that tiger syndicates were operating in Nepal and the Indian government has not effectively taken the issue with the Nepalese government to crush these organised groups in the area of wildlife crime.

“There is a sense that smuggling of tiger body parts into Nepal has become easy in the last few months,” he said.

The seizures in Nepal had some sort of relation with highest deaths of tigers in India in a decade.

As many as 89 tigers died in 2012 in 41 notified tiger homes in India with poaching incidents reported from reserves in Maharashtra to Kerala and Assam.

One cannot ignore the fact that though tiger poaching catches attention of everyone similar killing of other wildlife including rhinos most goes unnoticed with little official reaction.

This is primarily as there is no standard protocol for fighting wildlife crime even though National Wildlife Crime Bureau has been set up.

Fighting wildlife will not be possible if India does not have an integrated system of sharing information on poaching and killing and operation of wildlife crime syndicates.

Wildlife smuggling in the world is said to be fourth biggest after illegal arms, drugs and human trafficking.

Tackling it would require an integrated approach rather than working in silos as it is happening in India.

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