& INDIA AGREE TO SAVE TIGERS FROM EXTINCTION
(6 February 2006)
courtesy of 'Kingdom of the Tiger' based on the life of Jim
UK and Indian Governments have agreed a way forward to help
to reverse the rapid decline in India's tiger population, which
could be on the brink of extinction, with fears growing that
organised crime is now involved in the trade in tiger skins.
Biodiversity Minister Jim Knight ended his first visit to India
having reached agreement with his opposite number in the Indian
Government on concrete measures to remove the threats to India's
few remaining wild tigers and allow the species to thrive.
a wildlife crime workshop organised in Delhi by Defra immediately
before Jim Knight's visit, law enforcement officers and conservationists
from the UK and India identified poaching and illegal trade as a
major cause of the sharp drop in numbers of tigers, leopards and
other rare species.
workshop recommended that each state government draw up and implement
an action plan to end poaching through better surveillance and imposition
of tough penalties. Indian wildlife managers agreed to pilot a draft
plan in one state before spreading best practice to other states.
Knight agreed with Indian Environment and Forestry Minister, Mr
A Raja, that the workshop had been an important first step towards
saving India's tigers, leopards, antelopes and other threatened
species. They further agreed that wildlife managers, law enforcers
and conservation organisations had to work together, across national
boundaries in order to share information and intelligence.
Raja said that he wanted monitoring information on tiger numbers
throughout India to be collated centrally so that a more accurate
national picture on population trends could be kept. The Indian
Government has ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry
into the reasons for the decline in tiger numbers.
two Ministers decided to hold more workshops for officials to share
lessons learned in each country and to quickly draw up and implement
firm action plans. These workshops need to involve China and Nepal
as well as India and the UK because demand for tiger skins and for
teeth, claws and bone for medicinal products, and for antelope fur
for shawls, was fuelling a market and encouraging poaching.
also agreed that the US-led Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking
would play an important role in stopping illegal international trade.
Jim Knight announced during his visit to India that the UK was joining
the coalition. The bans and controls on trade in rare species under
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species)
must also be strictly enforced, they said.
determined that, while urgent action was needed to prevent the extinction
of rare species such as tigers, long-term strategies were also needed
to ensure their survival.
they said, conservation efforts had to involve local people. Unless
they had secure livelihoods, adequate health care and an interest
in preserving the wildlife on their doorsteps, they would understandably
be more interested in meeting their basic needs by whatever means
necessary. This could mean taking animal products or destroying
Raja said he had instructed state governments to deal with the human
pressures on the tigers' habitat, such as construction and farming
where it encroaches on the forest.
Knight said: "This has been a highly informative and productive
visit. I have been privileged to see for myself some of India's
have also had the great pleasure and privilege to meet many of the
people who live in the villages around Ranthambore National Park
and to learn from them how they have struggled but are now finding
ways to meet their own needs without encroaching on the tigers'
habitat. Now we must ensure that their efforts are not jeopardised
by poaching and illegal trade.
are going to work together earnestly and urgently to save the tigers
that we all love but which depend on local people for their survival."
4 February - the day before Jim Knight visited Ranthambore National
Park - a man was arrested in Delhi and charged with illegally possessing
more than 30 tiger and leopard skins. He is currently being held
in police custody. If convicted, he faces imprisonment and a large