New Delhi: For bazee.com, it was just another auction. But for Wildlife Trust of India it was an eye-opener. A tiger skin was under the hammer for $1 million on the site, and was being touted as the world’s largest tiger skin, at 11ft 7 inches.
WTI sleuths bid for the tiger skin posing as Andrew Jhonson, based in New York. WTI won the bid and the owner, one Deepak Chandra of Meerut, sent three photographs of the skin and a copy of the ownership certificate. The ownership certificate bears the date of January 25, 1989 and has the signature and seal of the chief wildlife warden of Uttar Pradesh.
Though the sale may not be entirely illegal as under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, sale and gifting of wildlife trophies are permitted, provided the owner had obtained a legal ownership certificate. WTI verified the details of the ownership certificate from Dr.R.L.Singh, Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden of Uttar Pradesh. The papers were found to be genuine.
However, Mr. Ashok Kumar, senior advisor and trustee of WTI, points out that under the garb of a legal certificate many illegal skins are sold. He cites the case of Jabalpur resident who had four legally certified skins. “He used to sell the many skins, taking care to keep only four at his residence each time. But was finally arrested,” he says. Other such cases have also happened in the past.
WTI has been lobbying with the government to change the WPA so that trophies cannot be sold or gifted but only inherited. After four year’s of working on the draft the Ministry of Environment and Forests prepared a draft amendment but the amendment is yet to be table in Parliament.
“Itis such a shame that we are still selling tiger skins despite tigers being protected under Schedule I of the WPA,” says Mr. Kumar.