New Delhi: It is a "formidable" challenge to protect India`s national animal - Tiger - from poaching and threat to its habitat, CBI chief Ranjit Sinha today told wildlife crime investigators from South Asia.
"A welter of pressures, including the loss and fragmentation of habitat, large scale and organised poaching fostered by an ugly international demand, unregulated mining in tiger landscapes, loss of connectivity between source areas and ever increasing demand on our forests for developmental projects continue to challenge the efforts to save the tiger," Sinha said.
India has the maximum number of tigers along with its source areas amongst the 13 tiger range countries in the world. The country is home to about more than half of the world`s tigers.
"Presently, the country`s 1,706 tigers are scattered across a fragmented system of 43 reserves which are under the governance of 17 different state governments. The challenge to protect these is formidable," Sinha said.
The CBI Director said the probe agency had gained valuable expertise in this domain while probing the Sariska Tiger killings case few years back.
Calling India "the land of the tiger", Sinha inaugurated the five-day conference of `Interpol Integrated Investigative Capacity Development and Operational Planning-South Asia` which is being attended by country`s neighbours like Pakistan, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, among others.
"Saving the Tiger is like saving the ecosystem," he said, adding that intelligence and enforcement agencies of all the countries need to bring in enhanced coordination for saving the endangered animal.
India has nearly 6.5 per cent of the world`s known wildlife species, and is one of the mega diverse countries of the world. The global demand for wildlife and its products puts at risk the mega diversity of the country, he said.
"The most insidious and the immediate threat to the tiger is the illegal trade in its bone and other parts of its body. Wildlife trade is now well entrenched and widespread in India. The low risk of detection, huge profits and numerous cross border trade routes has made illegal trade an increasingly attractive business," Singh said.
He said the changing market dynamics and the lifestyles make the existing regulatory regimes inadequate in dealing with the wildlife crimes assuming organised status.
"It calls for coordinated actions in combating the wildlife related crimes including building capacity for scientific and professional investigation along with other measures," he said in his inaugural speech.