Increase in wildlife crimes in State feared
Prabal Kr Das
GUWAHATI, Jan 2 – Intelligence inputs indicate that there could be an increase in wildlife crime in Assam in the next two months. The information is being treated seriously by both Forest Department officials and conservation workers as they are wary of new threats to the wildlife of the region. A senior Forest Department official said that the warning is quite recent, and steps are being planned to thwart activities of poachers and middlemen engaged in the illegal trade.
The communication from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests specified that based on intelligence there were apprehensions about poaching of tigers in tiger bearing areas of Assam. The Ministry has requested that patrolling be intensified so that no untoward incident could take place in those areas of the State.
Even though a poacher could be paid a few thousand rupees for his illegal act, by the time the body part of a tiger reaches the end user its skin or bones could be worth several lakh rupees if not more.
Sources said that the intelligence could be linked to a rise in the demand of tiger organs in the international markets, which has seen a surge of new customers with the global economy coming out of recession. With the economy in better shape, the demand for high value luxury items like tiger skin, bones and teeth has grown manifold.
Some believe that groups of poachers might have shifted bases to the State as patrolling has already been heightened in tiger bearing areas in other parts of the country.
Alarmed by the communication, the State Forest Department has asked all divisional level officials to be on alert and increase patrolling in all areas with tiger population. Assam has three notified tiger reserves – Manas, Kaziranga and Nameri, but tigers have been recorded in several other areas as well.
A senior Forest Department official, however, told The Assam Tribune that even though the alert has been sounded, there might be a problem at the ground level. “There is shortage of manpower at the field level, and even the existing personnel in the wildlife wing are ageing, which does not really help matters,” he noted.