Tiger Poachers To Be Shot on Sight in India
The Indian state of Maharashtra has essentially issued a license to kill on suspected tiger poachers in an effort to reduce illegal hunting of the big cat, according to the Guardian. It's an extreme measure, but deemed necessary after eight tiger deaths were reported in the state this year already.
Forest guards should not be "booked for human rights violations when they have taken action against poachers," said the Maharashtra forest minister, Patangrao Kadam, in a recent public statement. The statement basically amounts to decriminalizing the injuring or killing of poachers within the state's wildlife preserve boundaries.
India is home to about half of the world's estimated 3,200 tigers, but that number is down by roughly 50 percent over the last 20 years. Habitat loss carries much of the blame, but poaching remains the most serious threat for tigers that are protected within India's many wildlife preserves.
Throughout the country, 14 tigers have been killed by poachers this year, which is already more deaths than all of last year combined. Since Maharashtra only harbors 169 adult tigers, the loss of 8 of them in that state alone is devastating.
Forest guards will also be given substantial reinforcements in the war on poachers, which means both more rangers and more jeeps. The government has also authorized paying informers who can offer valuable leads about poaching activity. Because encounters between rangers and poachers are rare (poachers often do most of their hunting in the dark of night), these payments to informers may actually be more effective at preventing poaching than the deterrent of being shot on sight.
"We hardly ever come face-to-face with poachers," said Maharashtra's chief wildlife warden, SWH Naqvi. He went on to explain: "We get very few tips, so [the payments] will really help."
The uptick in enforcement comes at the heels of reports that a group of poachers in neighboring Madhya Pradesh may have been paid an advance on a contract to kill 25 tigers in Maharashtra. Such a loss would be a savage blow to the state's tiger population.
The principle reason that these beautiful animals are so needlessly slaughtered is for use in unfounded traditional Chinese medicine. It is falsely believed that tiger bones can help to cure joint ailments like arthritis, for instance.
By Bryan Nelson