Monday, January 23, 2006

Tiger poaching at Corbett 'cannot be stopped'

Tiger poaching at Corbett 'cannot be stopped'

Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve (Uttaranchal) | January 23, 2006 9:15:09 AM IST



Increased instances of poaching in India's most well known tiger reserve have forced officials to admit that they cannot completely stop the pernicious practice.

Last year three poaching cases were recorded in the reserve - one relating to a tiger and two to spotted deer.


"We cannot stop tiger poaching in the reserve till we are able to nab the people who are buying the skins and other animal parts," Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve director Rajiv Bhartari told IANS.


This, in spite of the fact that forest rangers arrested four people in 2005, including Jagga, a known poacher of the area said to be behind the death of 70 elephants at the reserve since 2001.


"We do not have enough people to keep a strict vigil on the entire reserve," Bhartari admitted. "Ideally I should have two dozen informers but I do not have enough to tell us about the movements of poachers."


According to a 2004 census, there were 140 tigers and 90 leopards, apart from many other animals and some 500 bird species, in the 1,288-sq km tiger reserve.


To overcome this shortage, special teams have been formed from the existing forest guards and they patrol the reserve for several days at a stretch.


"We provide them food and material for building temporary shelters so that they do not face any difficulties in carrying out their work," he said. Earlier, these guards were seldom put on patrol duty.


The forest department is also taking help from villagers living in and around the reserve to prevent poaching, Bhartari said.


"We have carried out awareness campaigns so that if villagers find poachers, they inform the forest department," he added.


All the poachers who have so far been arrested in the reserve were either caught by the villagers or nabbed with their help.


According to Bhartari, unless the central and state governments targeted international buyers of animal skins and body parts, it would be extremely difficult to totally stop poaching in the Corbett reserve.


"Tibet has become one of the major centres of animal skin trade and most of the animals skins are smuggled there," he added.


Bhartari also pointed out an irony: increased tiger sightings that pointed to the well-being of the animals led also to the increased presence of poachers.


This apart, he felt that the number of tourists visiting the park should be regulated. "The government should regulate the number of tourists in the tiger reserves," Bhartari maintained. Over 150,000 tourists visited the reserve in 2005, up from 84,000 in 2004.


Tourists can explore the park in two ways: aboard flatbed trucks or in jeeps. While the movement of trucks has been severely curtailed, restrictions will also be applied to jeeps.


"We used to allow around 90 jeeps in a day inside the reserve but we are now trying to bring the number down to 60," he added.


However, forest officials and local residents admitted that the gatekeepers often allowed vehicles in on the sly.


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