Paramilitary: Fighting For The Tigers


January 10, 2012:  India is in the process of giving combat training to a battalion worth of game wardens in order to protect 1,700 tigers from poachers. Some 500 game wardens are being trained to serve in units of the Special Tiger Protection Force and nearly a third are already on the job. The three month "commando course" is a combination of combat training, how to handle weapons, and survival in the jungle. This includes training in tracking down small groups of poachers. Half the tigers on the planet are in India, where 19 special tiger reserves are set aside for the rare big cats. The paramilitary forest guards of the Special Tiger Protection Force are charged with finding and arresting, or killing, all the illegal hunters in the special tiger reserves.

Often the poachers go after the game tigers feed on. The lack of prey sends the hungry tigers out of the reserve into populated areas. There, the tigers are a threat to people and are often shot dead (either by game wardens or local hunters). So the Special Tiger Protection Force goes after all poaching inside the tiger reserves. This is where the combat training comes in, because poachers usually travel in groups and have gotten into the habit of firing on game wardens, to scare them away. If that doesn't work, game wardens are sometimes killed by poachers.

The Indian approach to aggressive and heavily armed (often with AK-47s) poachers is not unique. African nations have been having the same problem for decades. In some African countries, the use of paramilitary game wardens has solved, or at least greatly reduced, the poaching problem.

The reason so many modern poachers are carrying assault rifles and ready to shoot it out with game wardens is because the animals they poach are very valuable. It's all about East Asian cuisine and folk medicine, and the growing number of wealthy East Asians who will pay a lot of money for particular parts of rare animals (tigers, rhinos, bears). Then there's the elephant and their ivory. While the trade in ivory is illegal, this does not stop the demand (via poachers and smugglers). Out of all this new demand we get combat trained game wardens and game reserves that often look and sound like combat zones.



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