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Last Updated: Friday, 1 April, 2005, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Rajasthan suspends tiger wardens
Bengal tiger
India has about half the world's tiger population
The western Indian state of Rajasthan has suspended its top wildlife official and seven others for failing to protect tigers in a reserve.

The lapses of chief warden Arun Sen and the other forestry officials had led to widespread poaching, an inquiry found.

A massive search for tigers in the Sariska National Park this year failed to find firm evidence any were alive.

Environmentalists say most of the reserve's 26 listed tigers have been killed by poachers.

In February, 300 forestry workers spent two weeks looking for tiger paw prints in the reserve, which was set up in 1979 as part of a tiger conservation scheme.

Crime prevention

Belinda Wright, executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, told the AFP news agency: "It is a good thing that Rajasthan is taking the matter seriously.

"Sen had always struck me as an honourable forest officer but his mistake perhaps was that he did not react to the crisis appropriately and in time."

The move came a fortnight after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh established a national wildlife crime prevention office to improve protection against poachers.

India has about 3,600 tigers in its 27 tiger reserves.

At the time of independence in 1947 there were about 40,000.

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