Recurring incidents of poachers infiltrating into Sariska (STR) have set alarm bells ringing for the Tiger Reserve forest department.
Sariska, where poaching had wiped out entire tiger population a decade ago, seems to have been inviting trouble again. While a tiger has been missing for two weeks, another, a four-year-old, was found dead in a trap laid in a field.
The forest department has arrested a poacher who has confessed to killing one tigress in the park. The tigress, identified as ST-5, was killed by the man in February this year.
Recently, tiger ST11 was killed by a snare put by a farmer. The farmer first claimed that he had set up the trap for wild boars, but later admitted to that it was meant for tigers. The farmer's connections with poachers were also established.
Furthermore, he has also confessed to getting Rs 20,000 as payment towards the same," said officials. The man has also poached animals like Sambhar (deer) and blue bulls from the Sariska Tiger Reserve along with his friends.
Government is now proposing to set up a task force for Sariska but it may take ages before it gets enough funds for it. More crucial is to investigate Sariska death properly and Special Operation Group of Rajasthan Police can be asked to hold a probe into it.
Tourism lobby says Sariska should have more safaris and even places to stay for longer hours if poaching has to be checked.
Ghost Of 2005
In 2005, the entire tiger population of STR was eliminated by poachers, prompting government to take drastic measures including rehabilitations of villagers and arming forest rangers. But all these promises seem to be paper tigers as forest rangers are pitted against poachers who are armed with automatic weapons.
How poachers lay trap
Poachers use one of the following methods to kill a wild tiger:
Poison - which is usually placed in the carcasses of domestic buffaloes and cows. During the dry, hot summer months small forest pools are also poisoned by poachers, or depressions dug and filled with water for this purpose. There is a sophisticated and well organised supply route operated by the major traders, to distribute poison and collect tiger bones from the remotest villages. .
Steel Traps - which are made by nomadic blacksmiths. These traps are immensely strong. In a tiger poaching case near Raipur in 1994, it took six adult men to open a trap. In one area in central India, investigators found that so many steel traps had been set that the villagers were fearful of going into the forest. People have received dreadful injuries from these traps.
Firearms - are used where hunting can be carried out with little hindrance.
Electrocution - by tapping 230 volts -11KV overhead electrical wires and laying a live wire on animal tracts.
A general offence under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, attracts a maximum sentence of three years imprisonment or a fine which may extend to Rs. 25,000 or both.
An offence involving a species listed in Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II, or an offence committed within a sanctuary or natural park, attracts a mandatory prison term of three years, which may extend to seven years. There is also a mandatory fine of at least Rs. 10,000. For a subsequent offence, the prison term remains the same, while the mandatory fine is at least Rs.25,000.
An offence committed inside the core area of a Tiger Reserve, attracts a mandatory prison term of three years, extendable to seven years and a fine of Rs. 50,000 extendable to Rs. 2 lakhs. In case of a subsequent conviction of this nature, there is an imprisonment term of at least seven years and a fine of Rs. 5 lakhs which may extend to Rs. 50 lakhs.
Despite the penalties, the laws are difficult to enforce. WPSI's wildlife crime database has records of over 1,144 tiger-related court cases, but only a few of these have resulted in convictions and most are still pending in the courts. To date, WPSI has records of only 175 people that have been convicted for killing a tiger or trading in tiger parts.