Increasing deaths due to poaching are alarming
Wild tigers are a rare species in the world. According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), 110 tigers died this year. It is thus an alarming situation that close to half of the total tigers in the wild have died due to poaching and seizures. Tiger is the national animal of India. It is with regret that the abysmal status of the national animal must be acknowledged.
The tiger conundrum, if it can be called so, is hard to understand. On the one hand, tigers are officially given the status that exemplifies the highhandedness of the state. On the other, they are left at the mercy of poachers in the wild who face no difficulty in killing them for illegal monetary gain.
In 2015, 91 tigers died in the wild, 65 due to natural mortality and 26 due to poaching and seizures. In comparison, 2016 stands worse than the previous year; and there are seven more weeks to go till the closure of the year.
With the current rate of poaching, the number may expectedly rise to the detriment of the increasingly rare animal. The numbers are an enigma as the WPSI mentions that the Customs officials do not rely on any official data. To infer the number of tiger deaths in a year, they multiply the official number by 10. In all such scenario, this number, not to say the method, is unacceptable for a civilised nation. This is not to raise doubts on the veracity that the Customs officials try to look for but the debilitating numbers they infer.
Going by the Customs' statistical method, it would not be wrong to conclude that more than 420 dead tigers have been traded in the international market this year. Although a caveat must be put in place that the number may not reflect only on Indian tigers, but perhaps does include the total number of tigers traded worldwide this year.
Although the WPSI maintains that the number that the Customs officials infer are for Indian tigers alone. If this is an accurate number, then the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the Indian Forest Service and environmental activists must re-evaluate their aims and methods to save Indian tigers.
The reasons for killing of tigers are irreverent demand for tiger skins and use of tiger bones in traditional oriental medicines. According to the WPSI, there is negligible demand for dead tigers within India. Thus, tigers suffer the consequences of being illegally traded to the international market. Under ‘Project Tiger’, the Government had introduced special strategies to reduce poaching, which included monsoon patrolling, declaration of nine new areas as reserves, improved financial and technical help to different animal welfare projects and a global tiger forum of tiger range countries.
The Union Government has been quick to list its achievements, one of them being saving tigers from extinction and contribution towards several environmental benefits. It must go ahead and conduct an independent audit of ‘Project Tiger’ and similar tiger saving expenses to gauge the costs and benefits that have been incurred. Tigers deserve safe natural habitats away from the prying guns of the poachers. Perhaps better training and incentive measures for forest guards will go a long way to save this big cat.
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