Conservationists 'killing' threatened Indian tiger
Conservationists who use tranquilisers to sedate Indian tigers while fitting radio-tracking collars may in fact be killing the last remaining big cats in one of the country's main reserves.
By Dean Nelson, South Asia Editor
Published: 5:49PM BST 22 Jul 2009
A report by the National Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, an Indian government agency, has reported that the technique may have led to their demise from Madhya Pradesh's Panna reserve which is the second in India to lose its last remaining tigers.
Thirty-five tigers have been killed by poachers in the reserve in the last seven years, and the NWCCB has filed a report to India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, claiming excessive use of tranquilisers was to blame. Investigators believe the sedatives made the cats docile, restricting their movement and leaving them easy prey for poachers.
The claims come as new figures show India's tiger population has fallen significantly in the last three years, from 1,411 in 2006 to 1,200 this year.
Officials estimate 49 tigers have died this year alone as conservation schemes fail to protect the cats from poachers, who often work in collusion with corrupt park officials and poor villagers living nearby.
The National Wildlife Crime Control Bureau's report has sparked a row within the conservation world over the use of radio-collars to monitor tiger movement within the reserves. Supporters claim their use should lead to a significantly decline in poaching.
Dr Pradeep Mallik of the Wildlife Institute of India, who collared tigers in Panna reserve between 1996 and 2002 told The Daily Telegraph that the sedative, which is fired by a dart gun, lasts up to 45 minutes, but an antidote is administered as soon as the tiger is collared and the cats fully recover within five minutes.
He said only two or three tigers were collared at any one time. "If only two or three tigers out of 35 are radio-collared, how can the collaring be responsible for poaching?" he said. He had recently collared three tigers at Sariska reserve and said all three remained alive and at large in the park.