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Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Special tiger force in India
Royal Bengal tiger in India
The number of wild tigers is desclining sharply
Indian wildlife and forest officials are to be given specialised training to combat the poaching of tigers.

Some 200 tigers were killed in India last year and there is strong evidence that the killings were carried out by organised wildlife crime networks.

A global taskforce, formed to protect tigers, has now drawn up a programme to tackle the problem in 14 countries, including India, which still provide a habitat for tigers.

These people will be provided with skills to take to their homes and train others

John Sellar, Tiger Taskforce
The Tiger Enforcement Task Force has been set up by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to try and curb the poaching of tigers, especially rampant in India.

It has held its first ever meeting in the Indian capital, Delhi.

The group's coordinator, John Sellar, told journalists they had decided to create specialised enforcement units in India and other countries where the problem has reached "alarming proportions".

"These people will be provided with skills to take to their homes and train others to educate on saving tigers," Mr Sellar said.

Gathering intelligence

He said the taskforce drew inspiration from a similar unit in Russia which had been very successful in curbing the poaching of tigers.

Mr Sellar said the main problem facing wildlife officials was a lack of shared intelligence and information on the problem.

Dead tiger
Killings are carried out by organised gangs
"In some countries, there is no count or formal data on tiger poaching and the forest staff understandably have not received any police or investigative skills to deal with organised crime like poaching," he added.

A training programme was being devised for the wildlife officials at a police academy in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.

The officials will also be trained to gather intelligence.

Enforcement officials lacked resources to prevent poaching and also did not have the policing and investigative skills to tackle organised gangs, Mr Sellar said.

The world's tiger population is mainly concentrated across South and South-East Asia, China and Russia.

Their numbers are said to have dwindled from 100,000 in the 19th century to between 5,000 and 7,000.

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See also:

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India 'failing to protect tigers'
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Poachers kill tiger in Indian zoo
29 Jul 00 | South Asia
Tiger toll rises at India zoo
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13 Jan 00 | South Asia
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