India Offers Reward To Track Down Tiger Poachers
KOLKATA, India India is offering money to poor forest villagers to help catch poachers in a bid to save its endangered tiger population.
Poachers and smugglers are known to pay villagers to use their skill in tracking and killing tigers and elephants.
Now, authorities in Sunderbans forest -- a nearly 10,000 sq km (3,860 sq mile) marshy mangrove straddling West Bengal state and neighbouring Bangladesh -- are offering up to 10,000 rupees ($230) for the arrest of a poacher.
"We are trying to build a network of informants among forest villagers. Every arrest of a poacher or seizure of animal parts will be rewarded," said West Bengal forest minister Jogesh Burman.
"We hope villagers will cooperate with us because the money we are offering is good."
The reward will also cover three other tiger reserves in West Bengal, and if successful, will be replicated in other tiger parks in India.
Poaching is blamed for the drastic fall in India's tiger population from about 40,000 a century ago to just about 3,700. Some conservationists put the number at less than 2,000.
Trade in dead tigers is illegal but poachers still operate with impunity. A single animal can fetch up to $50,000.
Tiger organs, teeth, bones and penises fetch high prices on the black market, where they are used in Chinese medicine.
In May, the government said poachers had killed at least 114 tigers between 1999 and 2003. Just 59 of the animals had died of natural causes during the same period.
India's conviction rate of those charged with poaching of endangered animals is less than five percent, with many accused of poaching getting off due to lack of evidence