Sundeep Bhutoria

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

India's wildlife genocide

Last week apart from the headlines of Narendra Modi, Delhi rape case and US DolIar, I came across a small piece of news in the media that one of the largest and strongest network of poachers in the country were busted with the arrest of one 65-year-old Surajpal alias Chacha, who, along with his nephew Sarju, is said to have killed 300 tigers in the past 30 years and smuggled hides, bones and skulls to international market, especially China, running into crores of rupees.
The report, which read like a horror story, said that 18 kilos of tiger bones, nails and skulls were found with Surajpal who ran his operations from Delhi. Cash of Rs 50 lakh was also found from his house. The CBI and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau were in hot pursuit of Chacha since 2005 when they came to know about his activities with the arrest of notorious poacher Sansar Chand who is said to have traded in animal parts by killing over 250 tigers, 2000 leopards, 5000 otters, 20,000 wild cats, 20,000 foxes and so on according to a report by Tehelka. It has been a wildlife genocide.
I was aghast to read the report which said Surajpal had earlier worked with infamous poacher Sansar Chand Gujjar, and had earned for himself a dubious reputation of being the best supplier of tiger skins and bones. The modus operandi of Surajpal was simple and deadly. The tigers used to be poisoned and attempts made to make it look like normal death.
To me, people like Surajpal and Sansar Chand should be tried for “wildlife genocide” and meted out the harshest of punishments by the law. I am a wildlife enthusiast and a tiger lover, to me the newspaper reports read like a horror story. The legacy of the likes of Veerappan lives on across the country and in wild sanctuaries like Jim Corbett National Park, Rajaji National Park and Melghat Tiger Reserves in Maharashtra. Surajpal had set up a network of poachers, smugglers and poaching tribes across India. But for him and few others, the population of Indian tigers, which stands at 1706 as per the 2010 national tiger census, would have been 2500 plus.
Last month I had organized a discussion in Kolkata on tiger on my recently published book The Safari: A Diary on Ranthambore. I was in conversation with two of India's leading wildlife conservationists, Belinda Wright and Nitin Desai. During the talk Nitin had shared with the audience about some of the counter-poaching strategies adopted by his organisation and others which included taking into confidence and doling out incentives to the villagers and local residents to inform about the poaching networks  like the ones that was used by Surajpal.
I now really understand the efficacy of such moves. There is a hue and cry over “human rights” violations across the world on so many issues. It is high time that we should have “animal rights” at par with human rights under the purview of law.
ess bee

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