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China syndrome in tiger trade

BOOK>> HANDBOOK ON WILDLIFE LAW ENFORCEMENT IN INDIA• by Samir Sinha • Traffic India and Natraj Publishers • Rs 495

By Jose Lewis
Published: Thursday 15 April 2010

imageEach section of the Handbook on Wildlife Law begins with a quote from Sun Tzu, the ancient war guide from China.

There is perhaps a hidden message there; the handbook has come at a time when the wildlife conservation fraternity across the world is trying its best to influence China into shutting down its tiger farms and stop using illegally collected wildlife for traditional Chinese medicine.

The handbook notes that in 2007 tiger bones sold in China for US $1,250 a kg. But the role of the Chinese in wildlife trade is just one aspect of this handbook. Written by a forest officer who has served in many national parks and tiger reserves, the book covers a wide area. It describes poaching methods such as leg traps and clutch wire snares, gives an overview of the illicit wildlife market in the real and the virtual world. The illegal traffic is not just about tiger parts and ivory but also involves lesserknown products such as corals and shells.

imageIdentification of wildlife products seized from smugglers is a bugbear in wildlife crime investigation. The book focuses on all major species that are traded and the products of such a trade. Photographs and diagrams of the derivatives of illicit trade will help investigators in the field distinguish fakes from genuine animal articles. Maps of trade routes and poaching hotspots make this book a rare reference material.

Written without much technical jargon, the book is also an easy read for the layperson. But it should be translated into major Indian languages so that the front line forest staff know more about wildlife crime.

Jose Lewis is a wildlife official in India

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