BENGALURU: The recent arrest of three hunters while they were trying to sell a tiger pelt at Yeshwanthpur, Bengaluru, has once again sounded a warning bell for Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Both have four inter-state tiger reserves (Bandipur, Nagarhole, Mudumalai,Satyamangalam) with the highest tiger population in India.
Three months ago, an adult female tiger was killed in the Satyamangalam Tiger Reserve, and later its skin was brought to Bengaluru for sale. As per Tigernet, the official database of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), there have been 13 cases of seizure of tiger body parts like skin, bones, claws, etc in the last five years in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. This is the first case of tiger skin seizure in the south in 2018. The offenders informed the police that they had killed the animal by snaring in Satyamangalam.
Balakrishna (25), Mahesh (23) and Rangaraj (36), all from Thigenara Talavadi taluk of Satyamangalam district in TN have been remanded to police custody. Wildlife experts say formation of ‘armed protection squads’ (on the lines of Rhino protection in Kaziranga) in the coming days is the need of the hour. Snaring is the biggest threat to the survival of big cats and it’s a silent killer. Organized wildlife smuggling groups are very active in this region, and in the past decade, incidents of tigers/leopards being hunted by using snares have increased.
Experts add, “In the international market, there is a huge demand for tiger skin. But if they shoot the animal, the skin is damaged. So hunters are using snares to ensure that the tigers are killed silently and the pelt is devoid of any bullet marks. Further, it is difficult for the forest department to identify snares that are installed in the thousands of square kilometres of protected area. It is high time the Kaziranga model is replicated in inter-state tiger reserves.” A senior forest official told The New Indian Express that there is need for a joint meeting with Tamil Nadu as well as Kerala and Maharashtra. Wildlife activist G Veeresh says, “The tribal communities of Katni and Bhawariya from Madhya Pradesh are presently active in Karnataka as they are masters in tiger hunting.”