Pamela Raghunath, Correspondent
Mumbai: The Maharashtra government will take a no-nonsense approach to saving the tiger, India’s national animal, by officially making a bonfire of wildlife contraband, including tiger and leopard skins and elephant tusks.

State Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Forest Minister Patangrao Kadam, Minister of State for Forests U. Samant and various officials will preside at an official burning of the contraband goods at the government house, Sahyadri, in Malabar Hill on Tuesday morning, said a statement from Chavan’s office.

Such products, including tiger body parts, derives from wildlife that is poached by a well-knit mafia and fetch huge prices in international markets.

The event comes a day after the July 29th launch of a new global Save-the-Tiger campaign called “Leave Me Alone” — a joint initiative of Sanctuary Asia magazine, Save the Tiger, the Facebook tiger conservation social media platform with 2.7 million supporters, the Mumbai Press Club as well as active support from the Wildlife and Forest Department of Government of Maharashtra.

Chavan is expected to outline policy steps taken to curb the rise in illegal wildlife trade which is tightly linked to international trade in narcotics and weapons. This has been identified by both Central and state governments as a reason for the increased poaching pressure on the tiger in Maharashtra and other states.

Sanctuary Asia Editor Bittu Sahgal will outline the crucial role the public must play in protecting the tiger and winning the war against poaching and uncontrolled destruction of habitat — which has brought down the country's wild tiger population to c.1,800.

According to Kishor Rithe, Satpuda Foundation, an NGO fighting for wildlife conservation, “Maharashtra has become the only state in India which has done something substantial for tiger conservation in the last decade.
“The state has declared seven new tiger sanctuaries/conservation reserves in the last three years and brought 999-sq km area under legal cover. These new sanctuaries are located at very strategic locations for the breeding and safe dispersal of tigers.”

Moreover, a pro-active government official, Principal Secretary Pravin Pardeshi, has given emphasis to record every illegal poaching case so that precautionary measures can be taken. This is also the reason why the state has recorded the highest incidence of poaching of tiger, leopards and other prey species in Maharashtra than any other state in India.

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