Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times New Delhi

Deep inside Indian forests small and big creatures are facing threat from poachers as never seen before. Their vulnerability to wildlife crime syndicates is on the rise with government data showing an increasing threat not only to tigers and rhinos but to other animals such as pangolins, butterflies and crocodiles.

India is home to about 6.5% of the wildlife species in the world even though it accounts for less than two percent of the planet's green cover. Sparse forests having rich flora and fauna and poor protection is a perfect invitation to global wildlife syndicates to kill.

In 2012, detection of endangered species by the Customs department across India almost doubled as compared to 2011. Around 3,380 crocodiles, thousands of butterflies and some pangolins were also seized in 2012.

The data shared with Parliament this month also indicated that there has been no abatement to poaching in first two months of 2013 with around 266 crocodiles and 11 yellow anaconda seized by the customs department.

“The data is just indicative of the full scale of wildlife poaching in India as all killings are not detected,” a senior environment ministry official said. In addition, the data does not include seizures made by police of big animals such as tigers, elephants, rhinos and leopards.

The first three months of 2013 has witnessed poaching of 15 tigers, 39 leopards and 16 rhinos, says Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). Last year around 200 of them were poached, highest in a decade. Many of the poaching incidents have been reported from forests close to international border areas indicating its intended destination.

Dipankar Ghose, a director with WWF-India, said emergence of South East Asia as a big illegal wildlife trade market has resulted in rise in poaching. “This year poachers armed with AK-47 and automatic rifles killed rhinos in Kaziranga,” he said.

Elsewhere, the poachers have lured local villagers to kill animals. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had also issued an advisory to state government fearing use of snares to trap and kill tigers. Hundreds of iron traps were found in forests in Maharashtra and Uttarakhand.

While a huge jump in prices of wildlife body parts in the international market is a reason for increase in demand, the skewed utilization of government money for wildlife protection has helped poachers.
Government money allocated to wildlife protection has not been increased as compared to other social sectors.

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