Retired Indian Army personnel being recruited to save the Bengal Tiger

November 14th, 2007 - 8:19 am ICT by admin  
With their numbers reduced to as few as 1,300 in the wild, the plan will see pensioned soldiers who have returned to their villages being paid to guard wildlife sanctuaries.

A scientific survey by the Wildlife Institute of India which is due to be published in December will show that numbers have declined sharply from a 2001 estimate of 3,642 tigers, a figure which conservationists had long known to be over-inflated.

Earlier this week the emergency survey - commissioned after it emerged in 2005 that the Sariska reserve in Rajasthan had been completely emptied of tigers by poachers - was presented to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

“It was an extremely productive and positive meeting,” reported Belinda Wright, a leading conservationist who was present.

“The prime minister left us in no doubt that he was fully behind these measures to save India’s national animal.”

The plan to tap into the experience of retired soldiers with knowledge of tracking, weapons and enforcement comes after reports that plummeting staffing levels in India’s Forest Service had opened to door to organised poaching gangs.

However recruiting for the ‘Tiger Protection Force’ has already run into difficulties.

Many retired soldiers who have returned to their villages are happy to live off their pensions rather than go back to potentially dangerous work in the jungles.

“It is not a ‘magic bullet. But we believe the former soldiers can make a valuable contribution to protecting the most charismatic mammal on the planet. The entire world is now watching India to see how we deal with this crisis,” The Telegraph quoted Wright, as saying. (ANI)

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