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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2007, 04:37 GMT
India tiger skin 'traders' held
Tiger skin recovered in Uttar Pradesh on December 4 2007
The number of tigers in India has fallen drastically
Police in India's northern Uttar Pradesh state say they have arrested 16 people in connection with hunting tigers and smuggling skin and bones.

The police said they have recovered tiger skin, bones and hair from the arrested people in Allahabad city.

A recent study found that the number of tigers in India had fallen to under 1,500 provoking the government to create a tiger protection force.

India's last major survey in 2002 put tiger numbers at 3,642.

Wildlife activists blame poaching and urbanisation for the decline and say the authorities must do more.

Senior Uttar Pradesh police official Amitabh Yash said that the police had seized four tiger skins, and 100kg of animal bone and hair from the 16 men arrested on Tuesday evening.

He said a gang of 12 hunters, including 10 women, had come to Allahabad to deliver the tiger parts to four smugglers.

Criticised

In May, a census commissioned by the government showed that India had far fewer tigers living in the wild than had been thought.

The study, conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India, showed tiger numbers falling in some states by two-thirds in five years.

Wildlife experts have criticised the Indian government for failing to crack down on poachers and the illegal trade in tiger skins.

Tigers are poached for their body parts - skins are prized for fashion and tiger bones are used for oriental medicines.

Tiger pelts can fetch up to $12,500 in China.

It is estimated that there were 40,000 tigers in India a century ago.

The country is home to 40% of the world's tigers, with 23 tiger reserves in 17 states.



SEE ALSO
Indian tiger skins 'sold abroad'
22 Sep 05 |  South Asia
India to probe wildlife poacher
01 Jul 05 |  South Asia
Indian agency to protect tigers
25 Jun 05 |  South Asia
India investigates tiger decline
29 Apr 05 |  South Asia

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