By Krishnendu Mukherjee
One case in four years. That’s the official figure of tiger poaching in Sunderbans. Though experts have raised questions and locals chose to remain silent, for the forest department the wildlife crime is a thing of past. But a recent study on tiger genetics by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has turned the poaching heat on Sunderbans again.
The report — ‘Panthera Tigris Genome: Implications on Wildlife Forensics’ — discussed at the WII annual seminar last week, tried to track the crime by detecting the big cats’ gene pattern from the skins and body parts received from various enforcement agencies. “Yes, of the 48 cases referred to us, over 3% are from Sunderbans. We have studied 30 cases till now and only one is from Sunderbans, but the figure may go up once we finish the study,” said S P Goyal, principal investigator of the project.
What is even more alarming, origin of 80% cases were from central Indian tiger reserves. According to Goyal, the geographic origin of the cases were determined using data on unique haplotypes observed in DNA of tiger populations across India. “Haplotypes are unique characters present in a genetic composition of a particular tiger population. Apart from Sunderbans and MP, origin of 16.7% cases are from northern India,” said Goyal.
In Sunderbans, poaching seems to be a silent killer. Project director of Conservation Organisation of Nature and Environment (CONE) Animesh Roy said Sunderbans villagers often sneak into the core area to hunt deer. “Deer meat is a delicacy in the Sunderbans island and it fetches quick money. The meat is sold for Rs 130-140, a kg. It is quite possible that they hunt tiger as well,” he said.
And the chronicles of seizure from Sunderbans between March 2009 and November 2010 tell it all. At least six persons were arrested from east Goraberia and Baruipur with tiger skins and skulls, with the seizures showing, from full grown big cats to cubs all fell prey to the poachers. More....