Thursday, April 19, 2007

Indian researchers to find reasons for tiger deaths

From our ANI Correspondent

Bhopal, Apr 18: Bhopal's Regional Museum of Natural History has commissioned a study to find out the cause of dwindling tiger population in the country's protected forests.

Scientists at the Museum say apart from poaching, there are other perils that stalk the wild animal- such as tooth decay that hampers preying on the wild beasts, cancerous growths, injuries sustained during hunts, such as a pierced eye from an antler's horns and so on.

"By studying the skull we get a lot of information and every piece of information is put together. This will be very helpful in identifying the status of tiger population, the relationship between poaching and tiger deaths," said Sethulingam, the scientist-in-charge of the tiger death research project.

Sethulingam also expressed hope that the project will help the existing conservation methods.

Through this study the scientist also hopes to reduce the man-animal conflict which reflects in animals' deaths.

The scientists study the morphology of the animal remains, which shows problem areas like tooth damage or pellets embedded, chopper marks etc.

The toxicology study nails to find out if poison was the cause of the tiger death. The final leg is the DNA fingerprinting that shows to which of the eight species the tiger belonged.

Out of the original eight species, only five have survived while three are extinct, Sethulingam added.

A century ago there were about 40,000 tigers in the country, but decades ofoaching and depletion of their natural habitat have cut their numbers to 3,700. Some wildlife experts say the total could actually be as low as 1,200.

Experts say that around 300,000 poor people live in and around 1,500 villages located in its 28 tiger reserves.

Most eke out a meagre living from the forest resources by cutting down trees and sell them for firewood, collecting honey, picking fruits, and hunting wild game and simple farming.

But many are also paid by criminal gangs to lay traps, poison water sources and electrocute tigers to meet the increasing demand from neighbouring China, where tiger skins have become status symbols in Tibet and body parts are used in traditional medicines.

Environmentalists say poor forest dwellers are paid an average of 5 dollars for each tiger killed, while a single skin is sold in the international market for up to 20,000 dollars.

In September last year, a new legislation was passed aimed at tackling the tiger crisis, providing for a National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCS) and a Wildlife Crime Bureau to investigate poaching and curbing the illegal trade in wildlife parts. researchers-to-find-reasons-for-tiger-deaths

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