September 16, 1995
Web posted at: 1:00 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT)
From Correspondent Gayle Young
NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Some would say the poachers of tigers in India are like the druglords of South America -- ruthless, rich and difficult to capture.
Wildlife activists were recently heartened by the arrest of a well-known kingpin in the poaching network -- but discouraged when he was quickly freed on bail.
"The trade is in the hands of ruthless, well-connected and highly sophisticated traders and they have very close connections with many of the enforcement authorities," one wildlife activist observed.
Tigers are big business in India, and it's illegal. The bones and skins of the animals are used in traditional Chinese medicines that are sold throughout the world. In some areas, the trade in tiger parts is more lucrative than the trade in drugs.
For the past two years, wildlife activists and the government have launched a crackdown on poaching. They have set up successful sting operations, but activists complain that too many hunters are allowed to slip through the net.
"You can put out patrols in the forest," said Ashok Kumar of the Wildlife Preservation Society. "You can put out patrols in sanctuaries, but it is the masterminds sitting in big cities who are controlling the trade." (94k .aiff sound file or 179k .wav sound file)
Activists say wealthy poachers are able to bribe officials to look the other way, a charge the government denies. What no one denies is that tigers are disappearing from the wild at an alarming rate.
And if conservationists are right, soon the only tigers left in India could be those living in zoos.
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