India launches anti-poaching force to curb tiger, wildlife trade
Jan 23, 2008, 8:24 GMT
New Delhi - India has opened a national wildlife crime control bureau to curb poaching of tigers and other endangered species, officials said Wednesday.
The federal forests ministry said the agency, a multi-disciplinary force comprising of experts from the police, environmental agencies and revenue department, will aim to 'reduce the demand for wildlife and its products.'
'The bureau would also aim to strengthen the enforcement at international trade exit points since the major demand for the wildlife and its products lies in overseas markets,' said Forests Ministry spokeswoman Kalpna Palkiwala.
'It is also mandated to advise policy changes, based on the information or data on wildlife crime,' she said, adding that the announcement for the opening of the bureau was made on Tuesday evening.
Besides tigers, the anti-poaching force would help check smuggling activities of endangered species like leopards and Tibetan antelopes as well as endangered medicinal plants and herbs.
The Indian government had approved the creation of the bureau in June last year.
'This was after the Tiger Task Force which prepared an action agenda to save the tiger had said the cats were disappearing fast and said it was important to have such an agency,' Palkiwala said.
India has been stepping up its fight against tiger poaching in recent months. In November, the forest ministry started recruiting retired army personnel to guard habitats of tigers.
A report compiled by the state-run Wildlife Institute after a two-year survey said there were just 1,500 tigers left in Indian national parks and forests in 2007, down from 3,600 in 2003.
According to government data, poachers killed 122 of the big cats between 1999 and 2003.
Tiger poaching in India is spurred by a thriving trade in tiger skin and parts in China and South-East Asia where they are used for robes and for preparing traditional medicines. The animals are also killed by villagers who live within or on the borders of tiger reserves.
Conservationists have long been demanding that India, which has roughly 50 per cent of the world's remaining population of endangered tigers, strengthen measures to fight poaching activities at Indian reserves.© 2008 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur