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 user 2005-05-10 at 11:13:00 am Views: 39
  • #9346
    The threat to India’s main tiger centre


    Poaching for tiger skin is

    India’s most
    important tiger centre is under threat.

    Rampant poaching is the biggest threat to the future of the big
    cats in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

    With 712 tigers in nine national parks and 25 wildlife
    sanctuaries, Madhya Pradesh is home to the largest tiger population in the

    There has been recent concern over tigers disappearing at an
    alarming rate from the Sariska reserve in western Rajasthan state.

    But two major seizures by the police in Madhya Pradesh last
    month point to the growing menace of poaching in the state.

    On 8 April, the police arrested a man from the Betul district of
    Madhya Pradesh who had admitted to killing as many as 30 big cats – tigers and
    panthers – over the past two years, an official said.

    ‘High threat’

    In another operation, provoked by reports of missing tigers in
    the Panna national park, the police recovered equipment – iron snares and
    electric wires – used for catching tigers.

    Between 1998 and 2004, remains, including skins, of 28 tigers
    were recovered from 12 districts in the state, wildlife officials said.

    “The poaching threat is very high,” admits the state’s principal
    conservator of forests (wildlife), PB Gangopadhaya.

    Tiger in Madhya Pradesh

    Madhya Pradesh is home to a fourth of India’s tiger

    The Wildlife
    Protection Society of India (WPSI) says a majority of the remains from 719
    tigers and 2,474 leopards poached in India between 1994 and 2004 were from
    Madhya Pradesh.

    Things have become so bad that last month, WPSI announced that
    not a single tiger had been sighted in the Panna national park – home to 34
    tigers in official records – for the last two years.

    Wildlife biologist Raghu Chudawat estimates “not more than eight
    to 10 tigers” are left in Panna.

    He says that at least 13 tigers with radio devices attached to
    collars in the park and being monitored by his team had gone missing recently.

    A report by a panel of experts appointed by India’s Supreme
    Court has also admitted that the sighting of tigers “continued to be difficult”
    in Panna, and the tiger population in the park had “crashed, probably due to

    Rattled by these reports, the state government has launched a
    second count of tigers in the Panna park after independent wildlife officials
    dismissed an initial count which showed no decline in its tiger population.


    Officials say that the poachers usually poison tiger food or
    electrocute them.

    The cats are mainly killed when they stray out of the
    high-security park boundaries.


    A leopard killed by

    A former senior
    forest officer, SB Lavlekar, is sceptical about what he describes as a “hue and
    cry” by independent wildlife NGOs over declining tiger numbers in the state’s

    “Yes, tigers are being poached, but tigers are also being born.
    Also tigers have a tendency to shift their base. They have migrated from some of
    their homes, and that is why they are missing there,” he says.

    Mr Lavlekar claims that tigers are now being sighted in areas
    like Morena and Dindori, where they were never seen before.

    Wildlife officials say tiger remains are mostly in demand in
    China and east Asian countries – tiger bones, for example, are used in
    traditional medicine.

    “Earlier, only tiger bones were in demand. Now the skin, claws,
    nails – everything fetches a good price,” says Raghu Chudawat, a wildlife

    For the moment, wildlife officials in Madhya Pradesh say that
    they have stepped up patrolling and monitoring the ponds where the tigers go for
    their water.

    “But nothing is foolproof,” admits a senior official.

    The fresh official count might now throw up some clues about how
    foolproof the security in the tiger habitat is.