Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Where have all the tigers gone?

If you're wondering where all the tigers have gone, this report indicates that they've ended up as skins and gone to what is arguably the biggest wildlife blackmarket in the world, in Tibet. Says the report, "The situation has only worsened since October 2003 when China’s Anti-Smuggling Bureau intercepted a truck in their "Tibetan Autonomous Region" that was carrying a consignment of 31 tiger, 581 leopard and 778 otter skins from India."

If those numbers are frightening, here's this:
In Lhasa, many new shops were openly selling tiger and leopard skin chubas — a traditional Tibetan outfit. At one shop, the team found three fresh tiger skins — priced up to Rs 5.4 lakh each — and seven fresh leopard skins for sale. All these skins were said to have been smuggled from India.

• Most Tibetans wearing chubas claimed they had purchased the outfits during the past two seasons.

• Only 10 shops in the main Barkhor circuit stocked 24 tiger skin chubas. Another 20 stocked 54 leopard skin chubas. There are a total of 46 shops in the market.

• A large number of leopard and snow leopard skins were also found on the streets of Linxia.
And where do you think they're coming from?

Meanwhile, here's Asha Krishnakumar of Frontline on the report of the Tiger Task Force:
The Task Force report, while agreeing that relocation of all forest dwellers is the ideal solution, wonders where the funds would come from, particularly considering that 1,500 villages (66,516 families) still lie within the reserve areas and hardly 80 villages (2,904 families) have been relocated in the past 30 years. At the government-stipulated norm of Rs.1 lakh to relocate a family, the cost works out to Rs.665 crores plus land cost (Rs.11,508 crores at an enhanced rate of Rs.2.5 lakh for a family, including the land cost, which will be Rs.9,645 crores). Contrast this with the Rs.373 crores spent on Project Tiger by both the Central and the States governments in the past 30 years.
And on the tiger-tribe debate, here's an interview with Sunita Narain, ("Find strategies for co-existence") and this one with Valmik Thapar, ("The tiger has been placed in its coffin"). I have to confess that I haven't yet figured out which "side" I'm on in this debate. Ideally, I would say that whatever it takes, the money should be found...

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