Govt wakes up after wildlife seizures

Times of India , Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Correspondent : CHANDRIKA MAGO
NEW DELHI: At a time when conservationists have reported a major wildlife seizure in Nepal, the Centre has decided to call a meet of police chiefs and chief wildlife wardens of all states with international borders.

It is expected to be attended by representatives of the Intelligence Bureau, ITBP, BSF and revenue intelligence. Directors-general of police of states right from Rajasthan to the North-East are expected to be there.

Project Tiger chief Rajesh Gopal said the environment ministry is scheduling the meeting month-end to discuss coordination to control wildlife trade and reinforce protection measures. Alarmed conservationists have been flagging the perceived rise in poaching and flogging the ministry for its failure to come up with a coherent strategy to take on organised gangs of poachers.

The Centre is still struggling to put together a wildlife crime control bureau, supposedly fast-tracked by the PM himself in mid-March. Officials say they are incorporating the recommendations made by the PM-appointed tiger task force and are almost ready with the proposal finally.

Ministry officials aren't aware of the Nepal seizure but the Wildlife Trust of India here says that on September 1, five tiger skins, 36 leopard skins, 238 common otter skins and 113 kg of tiger bones were seized in a northern Nepal town by an army patrol. They fear it will be traced back to India.

On Friday, says conservationist Ashok Kumar, Phulbani reported a seizure of three leopard skins, 120 leopard claws, 18 kg pangolin scales, one civet skin, some elephant parts, 84 pieces of timber and 1 kg sandalwood.

Kumar says there have been at least 20 seizures in two months in India. One skin here, two skins there, bones, paws, teeth primarily tiger and leopard. Alarmingly, the seizures are spread through the country. Seizures have been made in Delhi, Haryana, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, UP, Uttaranchal, Andhra, Maharashtra, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal. The Arunachal-Assam border threw up a fresh tiger skin, 10 kg tiger bones and body parts.

Information on the latest Nepalese seizure is still coming in but Kumar says the name which has come up as the supplier is Tashi Tshering, who has been active in India. Suspected to have returned to India as Tshewang, he is supposed to have lived right here, in Majnu ka Tila, and is reportedly wanted in a seizure made here in April.

"It's part of a very well-established and well-oiled system,"says Kumar. Traders buy prohibited wildlife items in Delhi and transport these to Nepal and Tibet. The problem is, nobody knows the scale of poaching. The Centre and states have patchy data and no coherent strategy. Nor have international organisations been able to curb the burgeoning demand for items outside India.

An agency commissioned by the Centre to compile and analyse available data found 122 tigers had been poached and 62 had died of natural causes between 1999 and 2003.

SOURCE : Times of India, Tuesday, September 13, 2005

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