Close proximity to Nepal has turned Uttarakhand into a hub for tiger poaching, with 49 to 54 tigers — one fourth of the total tigers in the state — killed in less than a year (2010-11), an internal government memo had revealed.
The memo was based on confession of three tiger poachers — Tota, Balram and Balku Bawaria — caught in separate raids in the state. They were caught with tiger and leopard skins allegedly killed in the state.
According to NGO Wildlife Protection Society of India, 61 tigers were killed in 2011 and 18 till end of February 2012 in the country. This does not take into account the alleged killing of tigers by these three poachers.
The poachers reportedly hired locals to kill tigers in different forest ranges of the state, including Corbett Tigers Reserve, which has highest density of big cats in the world."For each tiger an initial amount of Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 was paid," said a senior state forest department functionary. Once the animal was killed and handed over another Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 was paid.
Although the poachers operated separately, their modus operandi was similar. They visited the state to order the killing in three to four locations
and thereafter, the entire operation was run using mobile phones. "For the first time, mobile phones were put on
surveillance and it helped us to crack the racket," a senior state forest department functionary said.
Then arrangements were made to transport the body parts to Uttarakhand-Nepal border. "All the tiger body parts were smuggled to a woman named Aarti in Nepal, who ensured it reached possible clients in Tibet," he said.
The internal memo sent to then CM Ramesh Pokhriyal, who was also in-charge of forest department, also highlights the fact that saving tigers in Uttarakhand was a difficult job considering highly open forests and easy access of poachers to areas with big cats.
The memo by vice-chairperson of forest advisory committee Anil Baluni during the BJP government, surfaced after the change in the state government and highlights apathy of forest management in the state.