By Sravanth Verma
Forest officials in the south Indian state of Telangana have arrested four individuals who were trying to sell a tiger skin.
The officers of the Mancherial division in Telangana seized the skin on December 20, Saturday. The District Forest Officer, B Prabhakar was of the opinion that the skin had been smuggled in from the adjoining state of Maharashtra, for sale in Telangana.
"We had a tip-off that cross border smugglers had brought a tiger-skin for sale to other side of Godavari river near Chinnor. Accordingly, a raid was conducted on Saturday and four persons trading the tiger skin were arrested, while two others managed to escape. We seized a skin of a three-year-old male tiger from their possession," Prabhakar told the Times of India newspaper.
The four arrested included one of the traders while three others were customers. Two others, the main accused, fled the scene. "It was Dasari Sham who had brought the tiger skin across the Godavari river. His contacts Tunga Rames and Ragam Rajesh had arranged the customers for the skin. The deal was being made on the bank of Godavari river when they were arrested and tiger skin was siezed by our raiding party," Prabhakar said, referring to the culprits. The river Godavari arises from the mountain of Brahmagiri, and prime forest habitat exists along parts of its course, which encourages poachers to prey on wildlife in these areas.
After interrogation of the captured criminals, the forest department raided the home of the the main accused on Sunday. However, the man had already fled the place and the raiding team failed to recover any evidence.
Over 95% of the world's tiger population has disappeared since the turn of the twentieth century, and only 3200 are estimated to remain in the wild, with 1800 in India. Poaching is a major problem still, and at least 1,590 tiger skins — an average of two a week — were seized between January 2000 and April 2014.