The Indian state of Maharashtra has decided to fight for the tigers that are quickly disappearing from the land. Maharashtra has declared war on tiger poachers by giving liscensed wildlife rangers the authority to shoot the poaching pests on sight. The government has declared that killing suspected poachers would no longer be a crime, which for wildlife rangers means it is open season on tiger poachers.
According to the Scotsman, Forest minister Patangrao Kadam said rangers should not be “booked for human rights violations when they have acted against poachers.”
Tigers are dwindling in India because poachers have no fear. Divyabhanusinh Chavda, head of the World Wildlife Fund of India, said “These poachers have lost all fear. They just go in and poach what they want because they know the risks are low.” The risk now for poachers is death.
Half the world’s estimated tiger population live on wildlife reserves in India. The reserves were set up in the ’70s to protect tigers from disappearing. But poaching has been a direct threat to the species. When the wildlife reserves were originally set up, tigers had protection. They were directly related to an increased tiger population in the ’90s.
However, WWF reported in 2008 that the wild tiger population in India had declined by 60 percent. Since that announcement several tiger saving initiatives were set up to build new tiger reserves, combat poachers, and relocate villagers to minimize human-tiger interaction. The population of tigers is now at 3500 worldwide with approximately 1400 found in India.
Poaching still remains a major threat to the tigers of India. Poachers are paid high prices because of a demand for tiger parts from traditional Chinese medicine practitioners. So far this year 14 tigers have been killed by poachers. In 2011, 13 tigers were killed in India due to poaching.
Maharashtra’s government declared open season on the illegal poachers because eight of the tiger deaths that have taken place this year happened on its turf. The last tiger death through illegal poaching was just last week in the Tadoba Tiger Reserve. The tiger was found with its head and paws missing.
The government is also increasing ranger patrols and offering payments up to five million rupees ($89,210 USD) to informants. The Indian state believes that the new orders will put the necessary fear into poachers to make them stop.