India Deploys Commandos to Protect Tigers

Posted January 5th, 2012 at 4:35 pm (UTC-5)
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The Indian government on Thursday deployed a team of commandos to two major wildlife sanctuaries in the south to protect tigers from hunters and poachers.

The government said a 54-member “Special Tiger Protection Force” began patrolling tiger reserves in Bandipur and Nagarhole, straddling the border of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka states, after three months of training in jungle survival and weapons use.

Indian officials said the move is aimed at reversing a dramatic decline in the global population of the big cat, which, according to experts, has declined from about 100,000 at the end of the 20th century to fewer than 3,500 today.

Wildlife officials have long contended that the lack of properly trained staff to protect the tigers is one of the critical problems facing conservation efforts in India. They say many of the forest guards are older and do not have the necessary skills to tackle the highly sophisticated gangs which poach wild animals such as elephants and tigers.

India, with about 1,700 tigers, accounts for nearly 50 percent of the world’s tiger population. Experts say the survival of the big cat there will determine the future of the species.

In November, the International Police Organization launched a campaign to help save the world’s last surviving tigers in 13 Asian countries.

Interpol said the project will link international wildlife officials with customs and law enforcement officers in Russia, China, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent to combat poaching and smuggling of tiger parts used in medicines.

The initiative, Project Predator, was unveiled at an annual Interpol conference in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.