Burning Issues




-Shivani Thakkur



Tiger killings happening rampantly all over our country is a source of concern for every one. The Tiger Task force set up to stop these killings as well design a programme for future is being worked on. But the big question is not their depleting numbers; instead, WHY? Why is that tigers are mercilessly shot. Why kill a tiger? Is it for meat? Is it for their skin?


        There was a time in pre-independence era that the tigers were killed to show off hunting skills or put up their skins as trophies. But that is history, now they are hunted for pure commercial reasons. A tiger killed in India fetches Rs 5000 but in international market it retails at $50,000. It is shocking but true. The various body parts of tiger command a heavy price. And all these are used in the traditional Chinese medicines. From whiskers to tail every part is saleable. Belinda Wright, director of Wildlife Protection Society of India says, “China is the manufacturing hub for medicines made from tiger derivatives. From China, these medicines are sent to various countries like US, UK and Japan mainly to Chinese communities there.


A tiger tail, at Rs 9,200 apiece, is mixed with soap and sold as cure for skin disease. A bowl of penis soup for Rs1600 is used in love potions as an aphrodisiac. Thinges like gall stones are used to cure abscesses and weak eyesight. Bile is used to treat convulsions in children. Bones at Rs 30,000 and above the most valued of the lot is powdered and prepared as tiger wine to soothe rheumatic pain, cure ulcers. Testes are used to treat nymph node TB.  Skin for Rs 45,000 is used in Tibet as high street fashion or to treat mental illness. Hair is burnt to drive centipedes. Brain to cure acne and laziness. Eyes (Rs 5500 a pair) treated for epilepsy, malaria, and cataract.  Whiskers used as good luck charm. Blood Rs 400 for 40cc bottle to strengthen and boost will power.


  Whether these things are effective in curing or not is still an unknown fact. Likewise with other animals most of them are killed for their body parts. Otters, who fall under Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, are killed for their pelt used in traditional Tibetan costume. Mongoose hair is used in making hairbrushes for painting. Owls are trapped for their claws to drive away fear and nightmares in young children. Many animals like snakes, crocodiles, hammerhead sharks, monitor lizard sea horses are supplied to schools to identify during exams.


 Mr. M.K.Sharma, a special secretary in the Union Environment and Forest Ministry put up an idea of setting private breeders to breed wild animals for medicinal products. But this idea drew harsh criticism as people questioned the foolproof sustenance of this. What guarantee would be there that a breeder would not surreptitiously smuggle animals from wild to increase the numbers and what would ensure that a breeder wont be tempted to sell animals to recover his costs as cost of upkeep is pretty high.


  All these facts point out the dismal condition of animals in our country. They are at peril as long as we overlook those sects of people who would much rather take a magic potion to cure their ills rather than approach diseases scientifically and holistically. Yet there is little being done to stop all those people who want to make money fast by hook and crook.


( Tiger cub Corbett National Park-Photo Susan Sharma)


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