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29.12.10

As dawn was breaking the week before the global tiger summit began in St. Petersburg last month, a team of forest guards in Kaziranga, Assam, in northeastern India, sent their own unmistakable message to the bigwigs debating how to save the majestic cat.

After tracking four poachers through thick fog for much of the night on Nov. 15, the park rangers closed in. Suddenly, a group of guards came face to face with the poachers. The tiger- and rhino-killers opened fire. The guards fired back, killing two of the poachers on the spot. The others fled into the tall grass, escaping with a harrowing story for their partners in the illegal wildlife trade: In Kaziranga, park rangers don't run away. They shoot back.

"It is a common thing," said Surajit Dutta, director of Kaziranga National Park. "This year, seven poachers have been killed, and there have been lots of encounters."

Even before the experts in St. Petersburg sounded the alarm this month — warning that the tiger could be extinct in as little as 12 years time if countries failed to take concerted action — the front-line troops in Kaziranga had thrown down the gauntlet in India, which is home to nearly half of the world's remaining tigers.

 

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