On the black market, tigers are considered walking gold. And over the years, the demand for them has skyrocketed, so as their price.

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In India, these huge cats are being killed and slaughtered for their pelts and bones. And then, the bones are smuggled to China to be mixed with wine and traditional Chinese medicine. Majority of the skins end up in the country as well, where it is used in creating luxurious home decors and ornaments.

Locals are not the only ones responsible for poaching tigers. Most of the time, it is the organized gangs and other illegal groups. For them, tigers have become a great part of the wildlife trade, which is run by sophisticated and classy international crime syndicates. Basically, they belong to the same trade that is responsible for wiping out the population of today’s endangered species, such as rhinos and elephants. In a year, it is estimated that these illegal groups earn $19 billion.

Wildlife Protection Society of India

Two experts about tiger poaching are Belinda Wright and Nitin Desai. According to Wright, she already heard rumors that outsiders were killing the tigers in Kanha Tiger Reserve, where she spent several years filming her award-winning National Geographic documentary, Land of the Tiger.

Eventually, she found out the reason for the sudden disappearance of the big cats. One day, when she visited a nearby town, she saw a shop owner selling odd things. She approached him and was surprised by what she saw. The seller then whispered, “I’ve got four fresh tiger skins. Do you know anyone who wants to buy them?”

She immediately planned a sting operation. Five individuals were then arrested and a tiger-smuggling operation was unveiled.

In that same year, Wright traveled throughout the area to gauge the situation. She recalled, “To my horror, we were offered the skins and bones of 39 dead tigers, with offers in practically every city and town we investigated”. They were able to identify about 42 tiger poachers and 32 sellers.

Since then, she decided to give up her filmmaking career and started the Wildlife Protection Society of India. The organization’s focus is to gather every possible information about wildlife crime, particularly those that are involving tigers. They also aim to assist the authorities in arresting criminals who are destroying the wildlife.

In 1998, Desai signed on. He is currently directing Wildlife Protection Society of India’s anti-poaching moves According to the group, there are only 1,800 Bengal tigers remaining in the heartland of India.

Illegal Tiger Poaching in India

Recently, three of the largest tiger traps were discovered and confiscated in a forest outside Tadoba. It was rusty and crude. It was attached to the ground using a thick chain. It took 15 minutes for the forest department team to force it open and then set it.

In contrary to common belief, organized tiger poachers actually use sophisticated weapons to slaughter tigers. Only poaching gangs use jaw traps. Also, tigers are not shot to death because bullet holes will only damage the pelt.

Desai clarified that traps aren’t always made in a factory. Most of the time, they are forged by a blacksmith over an open fire. He said, “No tigers can escape from this trap. It is so strong and so powerful”.

How Illegal Tiger Poachers Move without being Caught

Basically, poachers know a lot of things, from the behavior of tigers to their distribution all across the globe. However, their primary target are those felines that live on the edge of reserves and forests. Often times, they work in the outskirts of the forests, targeting the male adults as they get more money for bigger skins.

Poachers are also knowledgeable about the weakest point of the enforcement. They even pay locals for information regarding when or where the anti-poaching officials move through.

In general, the gangs are nomadic. They normally strike a specific area and then move on. They visit a certain town, along with their families, who will then sell what they got on the streets.

Nevertheless, poachers usually work during the dry season. They put their traps on trails or in areas near water holes. Once a tiger is caught, Desai said, “they do a kind of surgical strike, take down the tiger, remove the skin and bones and leave the area in about three hours. They’re that fast”. That way, they don’t easily get searched.

What You Can Do to Help

If you wish to help stop tiger poaching, go to World Wildlife Fund. You can send donations towards much-needed anti-poaching gears and equipment for rangers. These are night-vision gears, bullet-proof armors, camping equipment, radios, and binoculars. The money will also be used in providing essential training for anti-poaching units and first aid treatments for injured tigers.

It’s not only India that is having problems with illegal tiger poachers. However, in the country alone, there were 1,690 individuals caught and accused of tiger poaching from 1994 to 2013. In that same period, 69 were proven guilty. Wright said, “It’s certainly not at a deterrent for anyone to kill a tiger. We’re following the same people again and again. Every single tiger that’s walking through India today has got a price on its head”.

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Alarming Tiger Poaching Crisis in India

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