Tigers in dangerous decline in India

The accelerating disappearance of endangered Bengal tigers from India’s 28 tiger reserves has Indian officials and charismatic-megafauna enthusiasts the world over in a tizzy. Poaching of the country’s national animal has increased in recent years, as body parts ranging from pelts to, um, members have become valuable commodities in the Chinese medicinal trade. Though India’s resources for combating the problem are somewhat slim — park guards’ low wages encourage bribes, and they are armed only with long, wooden sticks (!) — the country, a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, could face punitive measures if the situation does not improve. In response to what has been called an “international scandal,” government officials are beefing up security at the parks, conducting a census of remaining tigers, drawing up a new conservation policy, and establishing an old-age home for tigers no longer able to hunt. Really.