THE NATIONAL Tiger Conservation Authority sounded a countrywide red alert against poaching last week. On 7 March, a report released at the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species meet in Bangkok extrapolated figures from global seizures to claim more than 100 cases of tiger poaching every year since 2000.
Most of these pelts and bones originate from India, home to more than half of the world’s wild tigers. Leopards are a bigger victim with an estimated 200 poached annually and a large number falling prey to man-animal conflict. Seizures, carcasses and lynch mobs often make headlines, but rarely present the scale of the slaughter that continues despite international attention and domestic initiatives. Barely 10 weeks into 2013, consider the numbers India’s killing fields have to offer this year:
JAN-FEB Uttarakhand Police recover 22 leopard skins and arrest 14 people in different operations.
JAN-MARCH 13 rhinos poached in Assam. Railway tracks claim six elephants.
6 JANUARY Tiger poached on the outskirts of Pench in Maharashtra.
11, 12 JANUARY Raids in Nepal lead to seizures of seven tiger skins and 53 kg of tiger bones, including 140 canines that amount to 35 tigers. Many believe the consignments were from Uttarakhand.
12 JANUARY A problem tigress shot dead near Navegaon in Maharashtra.
13 JANUARY A leopard trapped for the third time in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony.
17 JANUARY A tiger carcass found in the buffer of Pench in Madhya Pradesh.
21 JANUARY A leopard trapped at a village near Palamu, Jharkhand.
24 JANUARY Leopard caught in a cable wire trap near Shiroda in Goa.
27 JANUARY Man arrested for electrocuting a leopard near Panna in MP.
28 JANUARY A sloth bear killed on NH-6 near Navegaon. The same day, a leopard was found dead in Gujarat’s Junagadh.
29 JANUARY Two arrested with wild boar meat from Panna. The same day, a leopard trapped near Siliguri, West Bengal.
2 FEBRUARY Two poachers held with leopard and deer hides in Similipal, Odisha.
4 FEBRUARY Two held with a leopard pelt, two bear gall bladders and a leopard cat pelt near Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand.
7 FEBRUARY Tiger found poisoned in Rajaji National Park, Uttarakhand.
9 FEBRUARY Villagers hang leopard from a tree in Dibrugarh, Assam.
11 FEBRUARY An elephant carcass, probably poached, found in Saranda, Jharkhand.
13 FEBRUARY 15 freshwater turtles recovered from a smuggler in Chandigarh.
15 FEBRUARY Leopard poisoned near Haldwani in Uttarakhand. A dead lioness dumped inside a walled well in Gujarat’s Amreli district.
20 FEBRUARY Four persons, including family members of forest guards, arrested for killing four leopards inside Mumbai’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
21 FEBRUARY Three men held with five tiger pelts and a porcupine from Chinhat, Uttar Pradesh. Another held in Mumbai with a leopard skin.
23 FEBRUARY About 30 kg of pangolin scales seized from three men in Uttarakhand.
25 FEBRUARY A leopard trapped in Karnataka’s Hassan district.
26 FEBRUARY Ailing leopard cub dies near Nagpur as a range officer let his family pose with the animal for hours before allowing any medical help. A leopard found dead inside Kanha Tiger Reserve.
27 FEBRUARY Villagers lynch a leopard in Poonch, Jammu & Kashmir.
3 MARCH Two poachers arrested while cooking a leopard cub they hunted near Kumbhalgarh sanctuary in Rajasthan.
4 MARCH Four held for poaching a tiger in Melghat.
6 MARCH Female leopard, fifth since 2011, was knocked dead on NH-6 near Nagzira sanctuary. A leopard was captured in a village near Nagarahole Tiger Reserve.
9 MARCH Man held at Mumbai airport with 97 turtles.
11 MARCH Tiger found dead with signs of bleeding from the nose and the rectum in Sunderbans.
Yet, this is only the tip of the iceberg, because for every killing on this laundry list, at least five went unnoticed. For all the alerts and reports, there is little investment in building a workforce trained to investigate, prosecute and, most importantly, gather field intelligence. If laws and guns alone could save the wild, this count would have been different after four decades of the Wildlife (Protection) Act and a ban on hunting.