ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Shooting in the Dark

Giving guns to forest guards is like catching the poacher by his tail.

In response to a series of tiger deaths this year allegedly at the hands of poachers in Chandrapur and the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, the Maharashtra government has decided to arm forest guards and give them the right to shoot-at-sight poachers in wildlife sanctuaries. This, the government assumes, will act as a deterrent and reduce the incidence of poaching. Although many wildlife advocates have welcomed this step, it could prove counter-productive and is open to misuse. As with other such knee-jerk responses to a crisis, it also exposes a limited understanding of the problem of poaching and the extent of the wildlife trade as well as several other complexities such as the presence of forest dwellers and people living around the buffer zones.

The trade in wildlife products is a lucrative, transnational business that has been difficult to tackle despite international conventions like Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The apparently insatiable demand for wildlife products continues to fuel the poaching business in many countries, including India. According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India, the international trade in wildlife products is around $12 billion a year.

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