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The BBC's Jill McGivering in Delhi
"Fifty years ago India had about 40,000 tigers in the wild"
 real 28k

Saturday, 7 October, 2000, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
Poachers kill tiger in Indian zoo
Poaching has helped to make tigers an endangered species
Poachers have killed and skinned a tigress in a zoo in southern India, sparking fresh concerns about the safety of endangered species in captivity.

We suspect the culprits noosed the animal and cut the jugular vein

Wildlife warden T Ramakrishna
Officials at the Nehru Zoological Park in the city of Hyderabad said four staff had been suspended on suspicion of involvement in the crime.

The skin of the 13-month-old Royal Bengal tigress, called Sakhi, is worth up to $10,000 on the black market.

The poachers also pulled out two nails from her front paw, before dumping her body in a water tank.

Night raid

The chief minister of Andra Pradesh state, Chandrababu Naidu, has ordered a police inquiry.

tiger skin
Indian authorities netted 21 tiger skins in 1999
"We suspect the culprits noosed the animal, cut the jugular vein and dragged the tigress outside the enclosure after she bled to death in the cage itself," said chief wildlife warden T Ramakrishna.

The poachers are thought to have broken in during the night, possibly with help from staff inside.

Tiger body parts are prized ingredients in traditional eastern medicine and are often smuggled to China, Japan and other south-east Asian countries.

Dwindling population

India's tiger population has fallen to about 3,500 from 4,300 just 11 years ago, largely because of poaching and loss of habitat.

They represent roughly half of the total number of tigers in the world.

This is the first case of a tiger being killed in an Indian zoo, though there have been hundreds of cases of poaching from wildlife sanctuaries.

The incident follows the death of 13 Royal Bengal tigers from a parasitic infection at the Nandankanan Zoo in the state of Orissa in July - a major embarrassment for the Indian Government.

Last month the country's Supreme Court called for strict government measures to protect the country's dwindling tiger population, both in zoos and the wild.

In 1999, Indian wildlife agencies recovered 21 tiger skins and 137 nails.

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17 Sep 00 | South Asia
Indian tigers threatened
29 Jul 00 | South Asia
Tiger toll rises at India zoo
18 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
TV tigress feared dead
13 Jan 00 | South Asia
Tiger skin haul 'biggest ever'
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