India’s first anti-poaching tiger unit is now an official entity. Time will tell if it has any teeth (no pun intended).
This Special Tiger Protection Force has its work cut out for it. Stopping poaching and hunting is not an easy task. Poaching is probably a bigger threat to tigers than even habitat loss.
The BBC reports that “The 54-member force will patrol tiger reserves in national parks straddling the borders of Karnataka, Tamil Nado and Kerala states in the south.”
There are plans for a second tiger force to operate in the state of Orissa, in eastern India. The latest tiger census reports 32 tigers in Orissa, though the government disputes this number.
Officials say the unit will deal with poachers and hunters and that unit members have received training in jungle survival and weapons use, with a special course in combat training.
Overview of India’s Tiger Population:
- India: 1,706 (estimated)
- Karnataka: 300
- Madhya Pradesh: 257
- Uttarakhand: 227
- Maharashtra: 169
- Andra Pradesh: 72
- Tamil Nadu: 163
- Assam: 143
- Kerala: 71
- Rajasthan: 36
There were 100,000 tigers in India at the beginning of the 20th century. Today India has over half the world’s tiger population, found mainly among 102 national parks, 515 wildlife sanctuaries, 44 conservation reserves and 4 community reserves. Protecting and preserving wildlife corridors is also key to saving India’s tigers.
Demand for tiger parts – especially skins and tiger bones used in traditional medicines – comes mainly from China. The Environmental Investigation Agency reported last year that even though Chinese Premier Wen Jiaboao promised that his country would “vigorously combat poaching, trade and smuggling of tiger products”, China appears to have quietly reopened the trade in tiger and leopard skins.
What is needed is an all-out global effort to change consumer preferences and attitudes, promote education and awareness, and enforcement of anti-poaching laws to alter the situation. Not to mention habitat preservation. The anti-poaching unit seems like a good start. I wish it all the success in the world.