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New tracking system to protect tigers

delhi Updated: Apr 14, 2010 22:44 IST

AFP
Highlight Story

India said on Wednesday it would use a new tiger tracking system to crack down on "lazy" wildlife guards as it struggles to halt poaching that has drastically reduced the number of big cats.

India's endangered tiger population has plummeted to 1,350 -- just over a third of the 3,700 estimated to be alive in 2002.

"Many field officers are too lazy" to patrol their wildlife sanctuary areas, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told reporters in New Delhi as he announced the use of the new tracking software system.

"They make up data instead of surveying the field," Ramesh said, adding use of the tracking software should halt malpractice.

The software, known as M-STrIPES, will use a general packet radio service (GPRS) device to follow the movement of the tigers which will be fitted with radio collars.

The system was developed by the state-run Wildlife Institute of India and the Zoological Society of London.

Ramesh said forestry officers patrolling sanctuaries often gave inaccurate reports about the number of tigers to conceal their inefficiency in protecting them from poachers.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, alarmed by the dwindling number of tigers, set up in 2008 a national wildlife crime prevention bureau, drawing experts from the police, environmental agencies and customs in a bid to end poaching.

The government has enlisted ex-soldiers to be part of a "tiger protection force" in state-run sanctuaries.

But despite the new force, poachers killed 32 tigers in 2009 and three this year, according to the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

Experts said the porous border between India and Nepal acts as a smuggling corridor for poachers, who bribe poor forest dwellers to guide them through the dense jungles.

Tiger hunting is illegal worldwide and the trade in tiger parts is banned under a treaty binding 167 countries, including India.

But demand is driven by China, Thailand, Myanmar and other Asian nations where pelts, claws and bones are prized in traditional medicine, environmentalists say.

Ramesh said he will release a new tiger census report in November.

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