Search This Blog

Monday, October 15, 2012

Poaching syndicates have reduced state protection for wildlife to a cruel joke

Pangolins are killed all over India for their scales. Seizures added up to 400 kg of scales, equivalent to 350-400 pangolins, in September alone Jay Mazoomdaar Surrounded by cops, Devi Singh Moghiya seemed too soft-spoken and dignified to be a poacher. His melancholic whispers belied the chilling admission that he was one of the six shooters who took out 22 tigers in Ranthambore between 2003 and 2005. They roamed the forest looking for pugmarks. Once a trail was established, they took positions on trees after sundown. One shot in the moonlight was all it would take. How did they get away with killing so many under the nose of 273 forest staff that guarded India's most high-profile reserve? Devi Singh looked puzzled: "You can always dodge them during the daytime recce. And which forest guard comes looking in the night when you fire your gun?" His team earned Rs 40,000-60,000 per tiger. He had no idea how much the traders made in the international market. Orange Laddoos? No, Tortoise Hatchlings Devotees of Lord Vishnu take home hundreds of boxes of Tirupati laddoos through the Chennai airport. In the cargo scanner, the laddoos, like any biological material, appear a shade of warm orange and no security staff gave those little globes a second look till it was discovered how thousands of star tortoise hatchlings tightly packed in sweet boxes were slipping through. Typically, the traders stopped giving the tortoises water days before the transit to avoid the stench of urine. Just before the scanning, the handler would give the boxes a violent shake so that startled hatchlings retreated completely into their shells and appeared suitably round. Some even used a touch of chloroform to discourage movement. Up to 30,000 star tortoises worth crores of rupees are still sourced from southern states for Rs 10-15 each, but the consignments now leave the country for Malaysia and other East Asian destinations through the Kolkata airport. Some also take the Dhaka route. Soaring Demand Last month, when rhinos were poached in Kaziranga, a local source with a past in the trade described how the shooters had hit the rhinos in "all the wrong places" and how the horns were chopped off with "sloppy, unclean slashes". Even parts of ears were torn off to establish the authenticity of horns before the buyers. It seems new operators are at work, a disturbing possibility in the aftermath of the Bodo-Muslim clashes. Brazen, bizarre and desperate in turn, the trade in wildlife is flourishing. The demand overseas is fuelled by an absurd faith in traditional medicine or a craving for exotic fashion, furniture, stationery and pets. The cheap skill of subsistence hunters ensures unhindered supply and there is little check by way of enforcement. With profit to the tune of 20-50 times, top syndicate bosses such as Sansar Chand can afford to flout the toughest laws and engage the country's best legal firms. Why Tusks Shrink The result is worse than decimation. Some species, from the mighty elephant to little otters, have taken such a hit that the trade in their derivatives has actually ebbed. By the late 1980s, the selective killing of male elephants for tusks has had dramatic results. From 20 kg, the average weight of tusks dropped to less than 10 kg and the number of makhna (tuskless by birth) males shot up. Alongside, the standard 1:7 male-female ratio in an elephant population slid to below 1:25 in the forests of Chamrajnagar and Mysore districts in Karnataka and in Tamil Nadu's Sathyamangalam where Veerappan operated for over three decades. "Today, most males are young with just 5-10 kg of tusks, which are not hard enough for carving," said an old trading hand.

No comments:

Post a Comment