India’s wildlife: Trapped between official apathy and poaching

Animal killing for economic gains is the most atrocious aspect of man-animal relationship.

Rajan Sharma/Zee Research Group/ New Delhi

Animal killing for economic gains is the most atrocious aspect of man-animal relationship. With the precedence that wildlife is again in danger, the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) has come up with shocking data of leopards and tiger deaths in the country.

According to the WPSI who works with government law enforcement agencies, Tiger mortality is worrisome as per 2009-2011 tiger census. As per data, in 2009 alone about twelve tigers died because of poaching which remained the same in 2010. Though in 2011 it reduced to seven but tiger deaths in 2012 have again risen to a hefty twenty-six due to poaching and seizures.

Among big cats, leopard is facing the curse of poaching more badly. According to the Report, about 252 deaths were cornered so far this year out of which 104 alone stands for poaching and seizures. In 2011, the situation was more gruesome as total deaths reported were about 358 out of which 171 were caused by poaching. A big leap is seen in the deaths since 2000 and 2010, during which about four leopard deaths were reported every week.

Current data of WPSI seem to suggest even elephants and rhinoceros are more vulnerable to poaching and seizures deaths. Way back in 2008, the number of elephants reported dead were nineteen which rose to approximately double in 2011 counting thirty-two.

Ditto with rhinoceros, in 2008 the poaching deaths recorded were mere eleven which rose to fifteen in 2011. The figures are expected to rise further in 2012.

Haplessly, the national animal Tiger has always been on the hit-list of poachers. Even laws amended under wildlife protection act especially for tigers seem in vain. The states which are more prone to poaching deaths, includes Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala.

Under Wildlife Protection Act (1972), the guilty would be punished with a maximum sentence of three years or a fine up to Rs. 25,000 or both. It is also to be noticed that many of such offences are committed inside the tiger reserve areas for which punishment is much more rigid. A seven year imprisonment with a fine varying from Rs. 50,000 to 2lakh rupees which is extendable up to Rs. 50,000, 00 in more stringent cases.

More recently, the Supreme Court of India took the decision to ban tourists in wildlife reserve areas to prevent such acts. But the current revelations don’t seem to justify the decision taken. Since last year, the numbers have risen rather than getting squeezed. Worst than that, it bought ramifications for several workers for whom sustaining in these reserves and parks was a course of earning bread and butter.

Moreover, forest department alone can’t trap poachers alone without the help of locals since they are more exposed to these forest areas.

The crime database of WPSI reveals, over 900 tiger related cases have been registered so far but only few of them have gained convictions. It is dismaying to note only 61 people have been convicted in tiger killing cases all over India so far.

Above data shows how law has been aborting to serve wildlife. A mechanism, to implement these stringent laws is the need of the hour. The steps taken by government are congealed and stands as a severe issue of vexation to this inhumane act of poaching.