New Delhi – A rare “shoot to kill” order against illegal poachers has been issued in a western state of India in a beefed-up effort to protect the endangered tigers, elephants and other sensitive wildlife threatened with extinction. Officials in Maharashtra, located near Mumbai, said last week they will no longer file criminal charges against forest rangers and guards who track down, injure or kill suspected poachers. The sudden announcement came after intense international pressure from animal protection groups like Save the Tiger Fund to stop the slaughter of the big cats which scientists estimate are slated for extinction. The tiger is considered endangered with its habitat shrinking more than 50 percent in the past 50 years and its numbers declining from 7,000 to 5,000 in the 1990s alone, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Why does it take a tragedy to get the system rolling? A fully-grown tiger was been found on May 18 hacked to pieces with its head and paws missing in the Tadoba tiger reserves. Forest rangers also found traps in the reserve where about 40 tigers live. Indian authorities issued the “shoot to kill” directive after two more tigers and three leopards were found killed in the past weeks. “Killing poachers won’t be considered a crime and no case will be registered if the forest staff catch them in the act and open fire,” said Patangrao Kadam, Forest Minister of Maharashtra. Forest rangers have been given better weapons to fight the battle against wildlife poachers and animal smugglers along with 100 jeeps to track the elusive hunters. India also promises to send more forest rangers into the field and will offer payments to informers offering tips that lead to arrests and convictions for poachers and animal smugglers. India has taken these drastic moves because of global scrutiny over its poor tiger conservation program. Estimates show that India is home to half of the
May 31 - June 6, 2012
by Jackie Devereaux
world’s 3,200 tigers living in wildlife reserves. While tiger hunting was banned internationally in the 1970s it clearly remains a real threat with high black market prices for tiger body parts coveted by traditional Chinese medical practitioners and herbalists. Tiger numbers have declined steadily over the past 25 years and dozens of other animals are also targeted by hunters and animal smugglers. These “shoot to kill” efforts are also targeting poachers of one-horned rhinos and male elephants prized for their tusks, and to deter villagers who hunt leopards because they are afraid of attacks against their livestock. “There has been an onslaught going on in India,” said William Laurance, a conservation biologist at James Cook University in Australia. “It’s a serious threat to wildlife along with habitat encroachment and forest degradation. A lot of species are clinging to survival in remote areas.” “The remarkable thing in India is that there is still anything alive at all with 1.2 billion people,” Laurance said. “As populations grow, an increase in hunting pressure is a classic thing that happens.” For more information about how to help save the tigers, go to several organization listed on the Internet like www.savetigersnow.org and www.saveourtigers. com and Save The Tiger on Facebook. This story was compiled from wire reports.
Orders in India