Poachers now use poison, not guns, to kill leopards for hide
Poachers active in Himachal Pradesh’s (HP) forest areas have started using poison instead of guns for killing leopards for their high-priced hides.
Police recently caught two poachers who had used poison to kill a leopard in Theog, 32-km from Shimla. A few weeks ago, the police had arrested two Nepalese nationals and two locals after leopard skin was recovered from their vehicle during a routine check near Jabli on the Shimla - Kalka national highway. The police did not find any gunshot wounds or trap marks on the skin recovered. Solan superintendent of police (SP) Madhusudhan Sharma said, “It seemed like the leopard had been poisoned. We have sent the hide for forensic testing.”
Poachers throw poison laced meat loaves in the forest to kill leopards. Leopard skin fetches a high price in the international market. Leopard skin which does not have any marks (bullet holes or wounds) fetches the highest price in the international markets which is why poachers have now begun to use poison to kill leopards.
National convener of nature watch India Rajeshwar Singh Negi said, “The animal hide trade is highly organised. Leopard skin changes many hands before it reaches the international market. In India, it can procure between Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh while it can fetch triple that amount in the international market.”
Leopards have been classified as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the red list of threatened species.
To keep tabs on crimes committed against wildlife the HP government plans to set up wildlife mitigation cells at both district and state levels. People will be able to report crimes against wildlife to these cells using a toll-free number.
Principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) and chief wildlife warden RC Kang said, “Like other states animals here too are vulnerable to poaching. Sometimes leopards die after being trapped in snares and in some cases they are killed by local people. The wildlife wing is now setting up wildlife mitigation cells to check these crimes.”
In May, the wildlife wing officials had raided a house in Skati village in Kullu located on the outskirts of Great Himalayan National Park and recovered a leopard hide and the plumes of a monal crested in silver.
The wildlife wing also plans to conduct a statewide survey to assess the leopard population. The last leopard survey was conducted in 2004. It was then estimated that there were 785 leopards, including 24 in captivity, in the state.
There has been rise in the man-animal conflict in HP with frequent attacks in Hamirpur, Mandi and Bilaspur districts. In the last decade 110 leopards died of natural causes while 16 were poached.