Jaipur: Poaching gangs are once again on the prowl in Rajasthan, which suffered the shame of all tigers being wiped out from Sariska a few years ago.
This time it's the tigers at the Ranthambore National Park that are facing a grave threat. A 9-inch long foot trap, huge enough to kill the biggest of big cats, has been recovered by a tracking team in the sanctuary.
The Forest Department suspects that the growing demand from China for tiger skin and bones may be linked to the trap found in Ranthambore. Every twelve years, China celebrates an ''Year of the Tiger'' and that is due early next year.
Forest officials say the trap found in the Karanpur Range of the park may have been laid during the monsoon when the park was closed and poachers become active.
"This trap could be harmful for any animal that we have in the sanctuary. It's a leg trap for mammals that we have found. It could trap any animal which is four legged and especially large ones like Tigers or panthers," said R N Mehrotra, Chief Wildlife Warden, Rajasthan.
With over 40 Tigers, Ranthambore is currently an attractive target for poachers. And with China celebrating its Tiger Year from next February, experts say, the big cats in Ranthambore are at serious risk. Also, the lack of an intelligence network to identify poachers through close links with locals makes tigers here more vulnerable.
"Tigers of Sariska had disappeared through these kind of traps only. And if we find similar traps in Ranthambore, it means that poachers have started coming to Ranthambore now for the same purpose of killing tigers. This should be taken very seriously," said V D Sharma, a wildlife expert.
In a state that lost all its tigers in Sariska to poaching, alarm bells are now ringing loud and clear on how to save the big cats effectively.