It has become abundantly clear that global crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic that we find ourselves in now, disproportionately affect the already vulnerable and disadvantaged. In southern India, that sad fact is manifesting in the lives of at-risk people and animals alike -- folks who have lost work and the income necessary to feed themselves and their families are being driven to poaching animals, many of which are highly endangered and on the brink of extinction.
This is completely avoidable. Demand that India's federal government release emergency funds to those in need so that they are not forced to make the horrible decision -- kill or die of hunger.
By April of 2020, India reported that 120 million of its citizens had lost their jobs. 90% of the country's population was employed informally, and therefore had no job security to shield them from the effects of a mandatory lockdown. Businesses closed, construction work halted, and public transit was no longer operational. Many of these folks were workers who had traveled to cities for work -- now unemployed, they traveled back to their villages, where few resources awaited them.
But in the dense wilderness, those desperate for food or income turned to the animals living there. Since the beginning of India's lockdown, at least eight big cats, the critically endangered tiger and leopard, were captured and slaughtered for meat or parts to sell. The first rhino to be killed in a year was brought down in one of India's national parks -- its horn and other parts can be sold for a handsome sum and provide poachers with enough income to survive. Even more prey animals, which endangered big cats and other predators rely on for survival, are being illegally hunted en masse. Experts worry that this poaching frenzy may push India's ecosystems beyond the point of recovery.
The desperation these folks feel must be excruciating to bring them to kill innocent animals en masse. And the pain these animals feel must also be unbearable. These inexperienced hunters are reportedly using antiquated and crass techniques that leave animals wounded and suffering for days -- leg traps that maim and trap but do not kill, horrifying neck snares that can take days to end an animal's life.
These poachers are not trophy hunters -- they are not killing for killing's sake, without mercy or conscience. They are impoverished, unemployed people simply trying to get by. If they were provided with relief by the government that is supposed to be protecting and providing for them, they would not need to bother with India's precious wildlife. Humans and animals can live in harmony, and neither need suffer.
But India's federal government must step up. Please sign the petition if you think that relief funds must be distributed to people in need and welfare programs meant to help them, so that no more precious wildlife die!