Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Maharashtra's Tiger Numbers Fall At an Alarming Rate


Last year, the Indian state of Maharashtra became well-renowned for its tiger-rearing program with more than a hundred of these majestic cats making their home in the state. However, within few months, that figure has taken a tragic turn as eleven tigers have died since January this year. In the last three days, two tigers had been found dead in Maharashtra alone. One tiger's carcass was recovered in the Junona jungles in Chandrapur district, while a four-month-old tiger cub's body was found in the Gondhi Pimpri jungles. Forest officials were unsure how the two animals died, although one forest officer from Chandrapur stated that the cub could likely have been killed by a pack of Indian wild dogs since part of its body was eaten. He further added that the second tiger was found to be ten years old, which could mean that it was a target for poachers. As of now, the team is waiting for a post-mortem report in order to know how the two tigers died. The Chandrapur district alone saw deaths of six tigers this year, out of which four died as a result of poaching. Last month, the government of Maharashtra sounded the alarm after it got reports of the Baheliya community from Madhya Pradesh that is involved in poaching and getting a contract to kill 25 tigers. The report said that the community had been given forty lakh rupees in advance for getting a tiger skin and bones, which are in high demand in China and the Far East.

I'm extremely shocked and  to see what Maharashtra has been through over the past months, despite a recent effort to protect the state's tigers by providing an order to shoot-on-sight when battling poachers. It has been found out that forest officials have joined forces with poachers, making the battle more and more difficult for the authorities. Last week, two forest department officials along with three poachers were arrested for their involvement in the killing of a tiger in the Tadoba Tiger Reserve in May. Last month, three bodies of tigers were found in the reserve. To hear about members of the state forest department to form alliances with poachers is utterly shocking and a disgrace to wildlife conservation in India. It can definitely be compared to the poaching of rhinos in South Africa, in which perpetrators involved have been wildlife veterinarians. I feel that Maharashtra is in the need of help, and has to use more than just a shoot-on-sight order to combat poaching. One possible way would be to involve the community in the fight against poaching, in which people can help by providing information on any would-be suspects through vigilance. Furthermore, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has made a statement saying that India and other South Asian nations lack resources to fight this ongoing problem. For this reason I think India had sought a loan of $30 billion dollars from the World Bank, in order to tackle poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. The plight of Maharashtra's tigers, along with other animals of South Asia, is in dire jeopardy and unless proper action is taken, they will disappear from the face of this earth within years.

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