Chetan Chauhan & Digambar Patowary, Hindustan Times
New Delhi/Guwahati, October 05, 2012
India‘s National Wildlife Week celebrations have been dampened by shocking deaths of endangered animals – 69 tigers and 39 rhinos in the first nine months of the year.
Tiger deaths in 2012 are more than five times higher than last year’s 13 casualties and the highest since 2001,
when 72 big cats died.
Of the 69 tigers, 41 fell prey to poachers.
“Many poaching cases were from the fringe areas of tiger reserves, where protection isn’t adequate,” said Kishore Rithe, member, National Board for Wildlife.
In 2010, the National Tiger Conservation Authority recorded 1,706 tigers, an increase of over 20% in four years.
Maharashtra and Uttarakhand, which saw the highest increase, reported 12 tiger deaths each.
The National Wildlife Crime Bureau is alarmed that poaching has spread from the north to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in the south.
Rhinos in Assam‘s Kaziranga National Park (KNP) faced a greater threat from floods than poachers this year. While 28 were drowned in floods in the Brahmaputra in June and September, 11 were wiped off by poachers.
The most recent poaching cases were on September 27 and claimed two rhinos. Environment ministry officials said the protocol issued after the floods was ignored.
Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan blamed the shortage of staff.
“The Assam government has done its best. But there is a genuine shortage of people,” she said.
Kaziranga had 2,290 rhinos, according to the 2010 census report. Rhino horns have a huge demand as aphrodisiacs in south Asian countries.
Three smugglers arrested on Thursday claimed each rhino horn fetches them at least Rs. 40 lakh.
A poached tiger is worth over Rs. 30 lakh in the international market. India’s borders with Nepal and Myanmar are the two transit routes.
“Vietnam and Cambodia are the main destinations as Chinese medicines based on tiger body parts are produced there,” said a document circulated by an international wildlife protection body.