Wildlife under threat

Besides poaching, loss of habitat, toxins cause deaths It is not just India's national animal tiger which is in danger at the hands of poachers in the country. Officials figures suggest that the future of other animals in the wild - elephants, rhinos and critically-endangered gharials - is also not so safe despite efforts being put in by the Centre and state governments. Between December 2007 and February 2008, as many as 105 gharials have been reported dead. However, the reason for the decline in their numbers is attributed to possibility of nephro-toxin entering the food chain and loss of habitat due to illegal sand mining. Official records reveal that in the past three years, the number of poaching cases related to elephants has been steadily rising. During 2004-05, 18 elephants were poached, during 2005-06, the number of dead tuskers was 16 and in 2006-07, it increased up to 23. The 2007 Census said there are 18,663 elephants in the country, minus the Northeastern states. Similar has been the case with rhinos. As per the information released by the Assam Government, 18 rhinos were poached in 2007 and four rhinos have already fallen prey to the poachers' greed till date in 2008 in the Kaziranga National Park and adjacent areas in Assam. Regarding the critically endangered gharials, the MoEF said that as per the last Census in 2007, the number of gharials in National Chambal Sanctuary is 1457, Son Gharial Sanctuary 106, Ken Gharial Sanctuary 12 and Katerniaghat Sanctuary 70 to 80. About 105 gharials have been reported dead between December 2007 and February 2008. While no particular reason can be attributed to their mortality, the possibility of nephro-toxin entering via the food-chain cannot be ruled out, officials say, adding that another reason has been the loss of habitat due to illegal sand mining. The Central Government has taken several initiatives, including constitution of multidisciplinary Tiger and Other Endangered Species Crime Control Bureau (Wildlife Crime Control Bureau) comprising officers from the police, forest, customs and other enforcement agencies to effectively control illegal trade in wildlife. The government is also providing financial and technical assistance to state governments under the various Centrally sponsored schemes - Development of National Parks and Sanctuaries, Project Tiger and Project Elephant. State governments too claim to be taking measures, including increase in patrolling and coordination with other law enforcing agencies, which clearly are not enough. And it is not just poaching that wild animals are at risk with. As per information available, four tigers and 21 elephants were killed due to train and road accidents during the past three years in the 514 wildlife sanctuaries in the country.

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