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Monday, 9 October, 2000, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Reward for tiger poachers' arrest
Tiger Nikhil in Nehru Zoological Park
Sakhi's twin Nikhil has refused to eat since her brutal killing
Police in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad have offered a $2,220 reward for information on poachers who killed and skinned a tigress at a city zoo.


We are confident that the crime was committed in connivance with either a zoo employee or someone well-versed with the topography of the tiger safari area

Senior police official Vinay Ranjan Ray

The incident took place on Wednesday night, raising fresh concerns about the security of endangered species in Indian zoos.

Hyderabad's Nehru Zoological Park has 17 tigers and the poachers targeted the youngest of them - a 13-month-old Royal Bengal tigress, Sakhi.

Police and wildlife officials suspect the involvement of an insider.

"We are confident that the crime was committed in connivance with either a zoo employee or someone well-versed with the topography of the tiger safari area," Vinay Ranjan Ray, the deputy inspector general of Criminal Investigation Department, told the French news agency.

Eleven zoo workers and one retired employee have been taken in for questioning.

tiger skin
Indian authorities netted 21 tiger skins in 1999
The unidentified poachers scaled a 20-foot (six metre) wall around the zoo and killed and skinned Sakhi before fleeing.

They took with them the skin and claws which are worth more than $10,000 in the black market.

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

Frightened

Officials at the Nehru Zoological Park say that the tigers, who witnessed the killing of Sakhi, are slowly returning to their normal behaviour.

These tigers - especially Sakhi's mother Karuna and her twin brother Nikhil - had refused food and water during the last few days.

The employees who were on duty the night Sakhi was killed say they heard the tigers roar in what seemed like agony but that the signal was not taken seriously by the senior officials.

The zoo's conservator, Trinadha Rao, told the BBC that these were imaginary descriptions and that, in his view, animals were without feelings.

However, animal rights activists have reacted angrily to the remarks, describing these as the latest example of the insensitivity of wildlife officials towards animals.

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.

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See also:

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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