We imagine it would have been cathartic to witness: the burning of wildlife contraband—tiger and leopard pelts—in a bonfire this morning in Mumbai.
The demonstration against tiger poaching and illegal wildlife trade was not organized by conservation groups alone, according to Gulfnews, but also by the government of the Indian state of Maharashtra. The partnership campaign, called "Leave Me Alone," kicked off yesterday on Global Tiger Day, an event that has special meaning for a country where the wild tiger population has lost about 98,000 animals in the past 100 years, leaving fewer than 2,000 alive today.
South Asia Regional Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Vivek Menon, who is also the Executive Director of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), tells TakePart, "IFAW-WTI strongly supports the state government of Maharashtra in their efforts at publicly demonstrating that contraband is worthless and that wildlife crime must be halted."
Maharashtra has been the Indian state most active in the tiger conservation effort, having established seven new reserves in the last three years. And according to The Times of India today, state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is "all set to announce a CBI inquiry into tiger poaching cases unearthed in Vidarbha between October 2012 and May 2013." The probe will focus on members of a poaching gang responsible for the death of at least 11 tigers during that period.
Just yesterday Nepal proved that a meaningful effort against poachers and better habitat management can make a profound difference in an animal population in a short time. A new survey reports that in four years the number of wild Royal Bengal tigers jumped up 64 percent to 198.
The Leave Me Alone campaign is also harnessing grassroots support with a petition addressed to India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. The first paragraph reads:
We citizens of India and of countries all over the world want to save the tiger. We know, too, that the fate of the tiger, the climate, and human populations across Asia are intertwined. We are a small, interdependent world. Humans are as dependent on a healthy biosphere as the biosphere is now dependent upon our wise actions. The tiger, a metaphor for all of nature, is an indicator species, its well-being signifying that undisturbed forests are sequestering carbon dioxide in their biomass and soils, protecting and moderating the flow of clean water, and securing the future of biodiversity.
The petition—currently posted on the Save the Tiger Facebook page, which has 2.7 million "likes"—goes on to request that the government "redouble" efforts to protect tigers and their forests. Currently, there are 2,752 signatures. Let's redouble that number.