It's Legal To Shoot And Kill Animal Poachers, Indian State Orders

Poachers tigersNEW DELHI -- A state in western India has declared war on animal poaching by allowing forest guards to shoot hunters on sight in an effort to curb rampant attacks on tigers and other wildlife.

The government in Maharashtra says injuring or killing suspected poachers will no longer be considered a crime.

Forest guards should not be "booked for human rights violations when they have taken action against poachers," Maharashtra Forest Minister Patangrao Kadam said Tuesday. The state also will send more rangers and jeeps into the forest, and will offer secret payments to informers who give tips about poachers and animal smugglers, he said. No tiger poachers have ever been shot in Maharashtra, though cases of illegal loggers and fishermen being shot have led to charges against forest guards, according to the state's chief wildlife warden, S.W.H. Naqvi.

But the threat could act as a significant deterrent to wildlife criminals, conservationists said. A similar measure allowing guards to fire on poachers in Assam has helped the northeast state's population of endangered one-horned rhinos recover.

"These poachers have lost all fear. They just go in and poach what they want because they know the risks are low," said Divyabhanusinh Chavda, who heads the World Wildlife Fund in India and is a key member of the National Wildlife Board, which advises the prime minister. In many of India's reserves, guards are armed with little more than sticks.

India faces intense international scrutiny over its tiger conservation, as it holds half of the world's estimated 3,200 tigers in dozens of wildlife reserves set up since the 1970s, when hunting was banned.

Illegal poaching remains a stubborn and serious threat, with tiger parts in particular fetching high prices on the black market because of demand driven by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.

According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India, 14 tigers have been killed by poachers in India so far this year - one more than in all of 2011. The tiger is considered endangered, with its habitat shrinking more than 50 percent in the last quarter-century while its numbers declined from an estimated 5,000-7,000 in the 1990s, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Eight of this year's tiger poaching deaths in India occurred in Maharashtra, including one whose body was found last week chopped into pieces with its head and paws missing in Tadoba Tiger Reserve. Forest officials have also found traps in the reserve, where about 40 tigers live.

Naqvi said encounters between Maharashtra's forest guards and poachers were rare because poachers generally hunt the nocturnal big cats at night. He said the state's offer to pay informers from a new fund worth about 5 million rupees ($90,000) would likely be more effective. "We get very few tips, so this will really help," he said.

But conservationists said the fact that poachers are rarely seen has more to do with low ranger numbers, and that increasing patrols around the clock would help.

Dozens of other animals are also targeted by hunters across India, including one-horned rhinos and male elephants prized for their tusks, and other big cats like leopards hunted or poisoned by villagers afraid of attacks on their homes or livestock.

A recent study on hunting in India noted 114 species of mammals were being actively hunted across the country, with dozens of birds and reptiles also under attack.

"There has been an onslaught going on in India," said William Laurance, a conservation biologist at James Cook University in Australia and one of the three authors of the study, which was published in Biological Conservation journal in April. "It's a serious threat to wildlife, along with habitat encroachment and forest degradation. A lot of species are clinging to survival in remote areas."

It's unclear whether Maharashtra's example in targeting poachers will be followed by other states, though tiger poaching has also been a major problem in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in recent years. The hunting of male elephants for their tusks has skewed the sex ratio, and there are now about 100 female elephants for every male in the south.

According to the April study, some of the most rampant hunting is occurring in the eastern Himalayas, where high numbers of army troops are deployed and some hunt for sport, and in the northeast near the porous border with China and Myanmar, where hunting is a way of life and sometimes an economic necessity for tribal communities.

"The remarkable thing in India is that there is still anything alive at all with 1.2 billion people," Laurance said. "As populations grow, an increase in hunting pressure is a classic thing that happens."

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Poacher plinking ...

May 28 2012 at 3:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bring this practice to America and add pedophiles, gang bangers, killers and drug dealers to the list.

May 28 2012 at 11:48 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Poaching, wherever and whever MUST be stopped. I am not against legal hunting of "sport" species, as long as wolves and lions are taught to shoot back and supplied with weapons and ammunition for defensive purposes. "Stand your ground" would be most aptly applied to the hunting of wild animals. Now, that's a reality show I would watch!

May 25 2012 at 7:20 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

It may not be what you consider a "Job" as in everyday listings of job opening but how many really come here to look for a job? But when it comes to the description of what these park officials have to do trying to protect what is left of these beautiful wild animals theirs is an important and dangerous one. A few weeks back I was watching a National Geographic episode where they were filming tigers at night and they suddenly seen 2 or more poachers and they got the hell out of there fast. They knew these poachers would not hesitate killing them if they interfered with their illegal hunt.

May 25 2012 at 11:40 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

They lost me when they said 'suspected' poachers. Every jerk with a gun and an axe to grind with a neighbor or co-worker will be shooting and claiming they thought that person was a poacher.

May 25 2012 at 6:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hallelujah! What took so long? Finally they are recognizing that animals are endangered, people aren't. Hopefully a lot more places will adopt the same rules. Just be sure the people you are shooting are actually poachers. See if the Chinese and Asian markets find this to be an 'aphrodesiac' as much as bear gallbladders and tiger penises. Go get 'em!

May 25 2012 at 4:10 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

The U.S. could stand to learn a few lessons from these nations

May 25 2012 at 3:52 AM Report abuse +11 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Rick's comment
Plummer, Joseph

We did, it's why we have the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. It's why we supposedly enforce laws. Our Conservation officers are armed.

May 28 2012 at 9:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Sad it's only one state and not the whole country that's going to do this. They need to do the same to anyone caught with illegally obtained animal parts. That would open up the whole shipping network. If there's a shortage of wardens, then the military should be brought in. Nothing like live fire drills included in your field exercises to help hone the troops skills.

May 25 2012 at 3:52 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to moorlockx's comment


May 25 2012 at 4:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


May 25 2012 at 3:47 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

This same approach has been in many parts of Africa for years. And though it has helped it has not stopped anything. They have a special forces unit in a certain country in Africa that literally hunts poachers. They don't just shoot anyone like Leaves would have you believe, they wait till you are about to commit the crime and in some cases they will even allow you to commit the crime and then you are shot on site.

In a way if we could just educate the people that put out the demand for these products that would help even more, send viagra by the millions to China and maybe then they can stop using rare animal parts to get aroused.

May 25 2012 at 3:22 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Gamenut6659's comment

in the days of apartheid that was common practice in south africa and simbabwe, and it worked well! but since now the do-gooders took over and are giving every poacher their miranda rights (or whatever that is down there)- thanks to the influence of the western media- that momemtum is lost, unfortunately!

May 28 2012 at 3:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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