Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger

by Wildlife Trust of India
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Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Vanishing Stripes: Save the Bengal Tiger
Mongoose hair brushes
Mongoose hair brushes

Background: Wildlife trade is identified as one of the major threats to the survival of many species in India. Several species of wildlife are under constant threat due to illegal commercial exploitation. Wildlife trade control is carried out by various enforcement agencies across the country.

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) tries to fill in certain gaps, by assisting these agencies through its Wildlife Trade Control Project.  The project area, peninsular India is a historic source for animal products and trophies obtained from tigers, leopards elephants which are further traded in the international markets. The traditional tiger hunting communities such as pardhies and bawarias are also active in these areas.  Poaching and trade of wildlife for bush-meat is also widespread across the region which affects not only the ecology of species like spotted deer, gaur and sambar but also the long-term survival of predators like tiger and leopard.  Local hunters use hand-made guns, snares, etc., to poach wild animals and  they sell valuable body parts to established gangs through existing networks of carriers and agents.

A number of interstate poaching gangs have been intercepted by various State Forest Departments with assistance from WTI's team. Since the start of the project in 2009, WTI has assisted State Forest Departments in confiscating tiger skins, leopard skins, ivory and arrest of suspects. Hundreds of wire snares have been removed during anti-snare walks which are conducted in association with frontline forest guards in Tiger Reserves. The project also acts as a platform to impart training to frontline staff in the Project area.  WTI has also carried out anti snare work last year and removed number of electrocution and snare from those fringe and buffer areas. WTI team has also assisted in many cases to helping monitor wildlife crime and providing technical assistance. The trade control activities will be done in association with the local community and Forest Department.

Activities conducted during last quarter:-

  • Between April and July 2015, our Trade Control Team working in the South India carried out anti snare walks in the fringe areas of the Bandipur and removed 87 snares from Gundre Range, N Begur and from Moliyur Range. Apart from anti-snare work in Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR) and its surrounding area, WTI team is also providing technical assistance to the BTR officials on deploying, collecting and compiling information from camera traps.  During current financial year, our team has provided Intelligence and Operational Assistance to Karnataka Forest Department and created a centralised data base. Our team has also gathered data on more than 128 wildlife cases which have been registered by the police in various police stations.
  • Our team also aided in the seizure of mongoose hair brushes and mongoose hair in Kochi. Mongooses are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Boxes of hair brushes were seized and suspects arrested.
  • On June 1, 2015, WTI’s central India trade control team had assisted the Nagpur Local Crime Branch (LCB) unit of Government Railway Police 
    (GRP) to seize 98 live black spotted terrapins from two people on a train going from New Delhi to Pondicherry. Out of 98 live black spotted terrapins seized, 16 died due to suffocation during transport in the train.  During the investigation the team also found out that the animals had been brought from near Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. The duo was then arrested. The black spotted Terrapin   (Geoclemys Hamiltoni) comes under the scheduled I Part II (14-C) of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

The suspects were residents of Karnataka state, belonging to the Hakki Pikki community. They had both been involved in smuggling for a long time.

Our team is also looking into the highly lucrative and highly illegal pangolin and otter trade. The main aspects of the study will include a survey on the distribution pattern of the species and gathering intelligence on suspected poachers 

Boxes of Mongoose Hair Brushes were seized
Boxes of Mongoose Hair Brushes were seized

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The seized animal skins in police custody.
The seized animal skins in police custody.

Mukerian, February 24, 2015: In a joint operation, Punjab Police and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) arrested four people and seized 20 skins, tiger parts and 94.370 kg of leopard bones from them. The entire operation was assisted by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)-Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) team.

(In another operation the Himachal Pradesh Police Department seized 6 leopard skins and apprehended five people in a covert operation in Bilaspur town of the state.)

The arrested individuals belong to a traditional hunting(Bawariya) tribe and were being monitored for the last few weeks before the covert operation was initiated through a network of informers and technical surveillance. Tracking the movement of suspects was extremely difficult because of their nomadic lifestyle and the code language they used during their conversations. On February 12, 2015, Dr. Nanak Singh, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Mukerian, formed two teams to catch the suspects red handed. The tip-off led the team to a house where the police found 11 Leopard skins, nine Asian small clawed otter skins and 95 kgs of leopard bones.  

Totaram, Sanju, Rohtas and Sadhu were arrested and during interrogation they revealed their involvement in the illegal trade of animal parts. They also gave information on their modus operandi and others who are part of this wildlife trade nexus. Acting on their information, the police conducted a raid and recovered an air rifle and tiger parts from another location. 

All the suspects were booked under section 9/39/49B/51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 by the Mukerian Police in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab. Asian small clawed otter, tiger and leopard are listed under the Schedule 1 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. 

The average size of the seized leopard skins is around 8 feet by 4 feet while the biggest leopard hide is about 8.6 feet. The average size of the otter skins is around 3.9 feet by 1.3 feet. Meanwhile, leopard bones were put in four different gunny bags weighing a total of 94.370 kilograms. The seized tiger part was around 80 grams. The seizures were examined by RS Sharath, Inspector, and were later handed over to Mukerian police. 

During the investigation, the enforcement agencies found out that Bimla and Ramswaroop are the owners of the house from where the illegal wildlife articles were seized. It was also revealed that Sadhu’s father, Chandrabhan, and his uncles, Surajbhan and Sohram, were apprehended for their involvement in illegal trade in Tiger parts in the year 2013 and 2014 respectively. 

This is one of the biggest and most successful operations done in the last five years of which IFAW-WTI team was a part of. We must congratulate WCCB and Punjab Police for busting this network which is a great boost to fight against wildlife crime in India. We sincerely thank the enforcement agencies for being so proactive in following these cases and ensuring that perpetrators of such heinous crimes are brought to justice. 

The seized animal skins in police custody.
The seized animal skins in police custody.

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Wildlife Crime Control App
Wildlife Crime Control App

WTI, with the support of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), has developed an Android based smartphone Wildlife Crime Control App (WccA) wherein users can report wildlife crimes from anywhere across the country using their phones! 

The WCCB is a statutory multi-disciplinary body established by the Government of India under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, to combat organized wildlife crime in the country.

This app is the first of its kind in the country and has an integrated digital version of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.  WTI formally handed over the app to WCCB in November during an event held at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

The main feature of WccA is that whenever an individual reports a wildlife crime, the lead will be automatically delivered to a designated email id of WCCB. A cost and time-effective tool, the app also has the provision of sending anonymous reports to the WCCB, who will be the sole custodian of the collected information. Also, no details of the person reporting the crime will be shared without the prior consent of the individual. This interactive app has a simple User Interface (UI) and replaces written reporting and records.

The app is compatible with devices running on Android Jelly Bean (ver 4.3 or higher) and the minimum space requirement is 10MB and 512MB of free RAM with screen size of 4.5” or higher. 

India is home to about 1700 wild tigers. This is a little more than half of the world's wild tiger population. This App is a step towards giving the people a chance to help protect that which is so very dear to them - India's Natural Heritage. 

Your support to WTI's Enforcement project has been crucial to its growth and today, as the year turns, I reach out to you with a plea - for your continued support to our endeavour to protect some of the most beautiful animals in the world.

Here's wishing you a wonderful and fulfilling 2015!

From all of us here at Wildlife Trust of India

A young tiger in the forests of South India
A young tiger in the forests of South India
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Don't let the bad guys get to me
Don't let the bad guys get to me

We respect, encourage and celebrate wildlife photography. However, like any aspect with attached ethical obligations, wildlife photography also comes with its own set of norms and rules that one MUST obey to help save the very animals which are being ‘shot’.

Resisting geo-tagging photographs is one such norm that should be followed with much greater zeal than it is now. When you geo-tag a photograph of wildlife, especially of tigers, leopards, bears etc., you make the life of the poacher (even an aspiring hunter) easier. By giving the locations, you are essentially helping reduce the gap between the hunter and the hunted by making it easier for poachers to track their targets and finish them off.

One needs to remember not all who see wildlife are conservationists or people simply happy to see these gorgeous creatures out there living a natural life. What they see is money... lots of it. Too many depraved minds across the world are willing to spend exorbitant sums of cash to procure a part of an animal or even the animal alive. Reasons could be many-for medicinal use, as items of decoration, or for sheer entertainment ‘value’ of having them as a pet

It is not just the large animals who are caught in the mesh of internet-savvy poachers. Did you know some of the most traded animals in the world are small animals like snakes, butterflies and beetles; with their trade (live or body parts) running into millions of dollars every year across the globe?

Take photographs without disturbing wildlife. Celebrate it. Do go ahead and post these photos on your social networking sites and encourage people to help save them.

But please never put specific locations on those posts. With so many species vulnerable and on the brink of extinction, it is our duty to do whatever we can to make sure we safeguard them from those determined to profit from them, come what may.

Next time, you see a photo of wildlife with the geo-coordinates/exact location, do your civic duty and ask them to remove the details, if not the photo itself!

Share this with as many people as you can. Spread awareness and help save what remains of our wildlife.

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Small clawed otter skin seized in Himachal Pradesh
Small clawed otter skin seized in Himachal Pradesh

The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) and Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Himachal Pradesh Police, assisted by IFAW-WTI team, seized nine otter skins from a trader in the first week of June 2014 in the town of Baddi in Himachal Pradesh. One accused, Shivram, was arrested. It was later revealed that his father and brother had been arrested earlier trying to sell wildlife articles in Siliguri, a town in West Bengal close to international borders with Nepal and a gateway to northeast Indian states that further lead on to other neighbouring countries.

Shivram’s father had been arrested in July 2013 in Siliguri with 70 kgs of pangolin scales, along with six accomplices from Manipur, Nagaland, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu indicating a country-wide nexus, and one from Nepal. Last month, his brother was arrested from Siliguri along with leopard skins, bones and otter skins. The operation to nab Shivram began with information collected by the WCCB on the accused trying to sell wildlife parts. The IFAW-WTI team was roped in to assist in the operation.

Led by the WCCB, the operation was strategized along with SIU team members to nab the culprit red-handed with the items. The operation was a complex one as Shivram was wary and kept changing locations within three adjoining Indian states. Despite this, the authorities diligently followed the leads and carefully set the trap with the arrest taking place on June 7th evening. Shivram has been booked under the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and remanded to police custody.

The skins belonged to Asian small-clawed otters (Aonyx cineria), a species that is listed under Schedule I granting it the highest level of protection under Indian law. If convicted, Shivram stands to serve up to seven years in prison.

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Wildlife Trust of India

Location: Noida, Uttar Pradesh - India
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Project Leader:
Monica Verma
Noida, Uttar Pradesh India
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