As if the last of India’s endangered tigers don’t have enough problems, they’re now facing another threat: poisoned bait from poachers.
India is believed to be home to the largest population of Bengal tigers and the majority of the world’s tigers, but their numbers have declined dramatically in the past century, leaving only an estimated 1,706, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
They have already lost the majority of their historic range due to development and continue to face threats from conflicts with humans and livestock, a lack of genetic diversity and from a growing demand for their parts, including skin, bones and teeth, in Tibet and China, which are estimated to be worth thousands.
According to the Telegraph, tribal poachers are now leaving fresh carcasses out that have been laced with a pesticide known as carbofuran, which was discovered after officials made inquiries into the unexplained rise in the deaths of tigers and leopards.
“The poachers used to use steel traps to catch tigers but there was always risk of getting caught,” said Dr. Abhishek Singh of the Endangered Flora and Fauna on Earth Conservation Team. ”Pesticides are easy to use and pose no danger to the poachers. They apply the pesticide to the carcass of dead animals used as a bait for the tiger and wait for him to consume it. One kilogram of the pesticide is enough for a carcass and single bite can led to the tigers death within an hour.”
Carbofuran, which is marketed under the name Furadan, is nasty stuff. It comes in a liquid or crystal form and is intended to be used as an insecticide on crops, but when used illegally its effects are lethal. It attacks the nervous system and only takes a small amount to kill humans and animals; a single grain can kill a bird and less than a quarter of a teaspoon to kill a person.
It has been blamed for causing problems for wildlife in other countries and has been banned in Europe and Canada. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned it in 2009 due to safety concerns and the belief that it was responsible for killing millions of migratory birds and causing a decline in Salmon in the Pacific Northwest.
The U.S.-based manufacturer FMC Corporation also instituted a buyback program in Kenya and East Africa to get it off store shelves after the discovery that it was being used to intentionally poison thousands of predators who posed a threat to livestock and killing other non-target animals, such as vultures, who consumed it.
Unfortunately, this pesticide is still on the market and widely available, but conservationists are fighting its use and are now calling for a ban on carbofuran in India where it’s used by potato farmers to help protect the last of these big cats and ensure their survival.
Please sign and share the petition urging officials in India to protect wildlife and ban Carbofuran.
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