19 Apr 2007
With the population of the Asiatic lions dwindling alarmingly it’s high time we woke up to the calamity and took some real steps to save the big cats from going extinct. The same poachers are suspected to be behind the large-scale poaching who are responsible for emptying Sariska of its tigers. How tragic it must be for people who have spent their entire lifetimes trying to save our wildlife heritage.
The big cats, whether they are lions or tigers or panthers shouldn’t be saved just for their majestic or esoteric value. They are at the top of the food chain and if they go, the entire food chain will collapse.
I don’t think the best way to stop poaching is to capture and punish the poachers. As long is there is a lucrative market poaching is not going to stop. You catch 10 poachers and 20 will come to take their place, and we don’t have the budget to keep armed guards for every lion or tiger. The best would be to punish those people severely that buy animal parts for making medicines, for using as aphrodisiacs and charms, or simply as decoration trophies. There should be either death sentence or life imprisonment if one is caught buying an endangered animal’s parts. This may sound harsh but once we lose these animals the entire humanity will have to pay a big price.
Another good step would be to rope-in the tribals living around the wildlife sanctuaries. They should be rewarded handsomely if they help the police catch the poachers, or if they keep the poachers out of the sanctuary. In fact there should be an overwhelming incentive to keep the poachers away.
Security too is a big problem. Most of the forest guards are untrained people who are locally hired just because they are unemployed and loitering around. They cannot even hold a rifle straight, forget about confronting the poachers who boast of the latest weaponry available in the market. Trained guards should be hired and they should be given weapons that can match the sophistry of the poachers. These guards should be appropriately sensitized towards the animals they are supposed to protect.