Western Ghats, India

Wildlife Crimes Unit Slideshow
Tigers are fast disappearing in the wild, due in large part to increasing illegal wildlife trade across Asia.  Our Wildlife Crimes Unit is working to support the arrest and prosecution of poachers and wildlife traders so that we can ensure a future for these cats in some of their last strongholds. Take a look at what WCS conservationists working throughout tiger territory have come across in their surveys and patrols.
©WCS
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Police display confiscated tiger skin with other seized animal skins and body parts in Indonesia. The country is Southeast Asia’s largest exporter of wildlife, both legal and illegal.
©WCS
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Many of the wildlife pelts and other items that are poached in Indonesia are part of complex trade chains, which often terminate in illegal markets in China.
©WCS
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
The Wildlife Crimes Unit provides technical assistance to Indonesian police conducting anti-poaching raids.
©WCS Indonesia
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
This tiger was caught in a snare in northern Sumatra, a hotspot for the big cats in Indonesia, and therefore a draw for poachers.
©WCS Indonesia
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
In addition to tigers, tons of turtles are also exported from Indonesia on a weekly basis, and about 1.5 million wild-caught birds are sold in a market every year in Java.
©WCS Indonesia
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Tiger bones in Sumatra are sold as souvenirs and talismans, and ground up or boiled down for use as ingredients in traditional medicines.
©WCS Indonesia
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Tiger pelts are considered a status symbol by some and many wealthy people consume tiger products for purported medicinal qualities.
©WCS
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
WCS conservationists in India calculate tiger numbers by setting up remote camera traps that photograph the big cats in the wild.
©Eleanor Briggs
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
The camera trap technique is also used in the Russian Far East, where this Siberian tiger was photographed.
©WCS
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Tiger scat contains a unique DNA signature that gives researchers another way to accurately identify and count individual animals.
©S. Gopinth
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
In the protected areas of India’s Western Ghats region, where WCS has worked for over 20 years, tiger populations are holding steady.
©Ullas Karanth
Tiger Rescue Operations Photo
Help the Wildlife Conservation Society save tigers in the wild by making a donation.
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS
Malenad/Mysore Tiger Landscape Photo
WCS works to balance the needs of both humans and wildlife in the Malenad-Mysore Tiger Landscape of India’s Western Ghats region.
©Ullas Karanth

Located in southwestern India, the mountains of the Western Ghats are a delight to lovers of nature. The rugged and steep western-facing slopes of this range are blanketed in dense rainforests that are home to thousands of unique plant and animal species, including primates like the magnificent lion-tailed macaque and a variety of reptiles and amphibians such as geckos and burrowing frogs. The gentler, drier eastern slopes of the Ghats are home to the largest single population of Asian elephants in the world, as well as one of the largest populations of tigers.

WCS has worked in this landscape for over twenty years, helping shape the policies that protect wildlife and their habitats, especially in the state of Karnataka. The future of this majestic landscape depends on a delicate balancing act that provides for the needs of the region’s expanding human population while managing the natural resources in a sustainable, wildlife-friendly fashion, and also keeping at bay development projects which fragment and degrade wildlife habitats.

Fast Facts

  • An estimated 10,000 Asian elephants live here.
  • The rare nilgiri langur monkey resides here as well.
  • Tiger populations in the state of Karnataka are scientifically estimated using camera traps and DNA extracted from their scats.

Challenges

The impacts of economic development, agricultural expansion, road construction, and livestock grazing—as well as extensive harvesting of timber and wildlife in the past—threaten the wildlife of the Western Ghats. Populations of deer, wild pigs, and wild cattle have all, at varying times, been affected by heavy hunting, which in turn imperils the status of the region’s tigers who prey on these animals. Currently, the biggest threat to the region’s wildlife is the fragmentation and loss of wildlife habitats due to development projects.

WCS Responds

We have worked with local governments and local partners in the region to create and expand protected areas, aid local communities to become more self-sufficient and sustainable in their livelihoods, and shape the policies of natural resource use to be more wildlife-friendly. In Nagarahole National Park and Bandipur Tiger Reserve, numbers of tigers are holding steady, even as they are in sharp decline everywhere else in India. WCS hopes to shore up the populations of wild tigers and other species by consolidating habitat through land purchase and creating a network of biologically healthy protected areas along the Western Ghats mountains in the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.

From the Newsroom

Counting Tigers by Their StripesMarch 6, 2014

In this video, Ullas Karanth, WCS Director for Science-Asia, explains a new and improved method to study tiger populations – counting their stripes.

Top Photos: 20 Years Camera-trapping India’s Elusive CarnivoresJanuary 29, 2014

India is a haven for elusive animals, with close to 50 species of wild carnivores. Krithi Karnath, WCS Associate Conservation Scientist, takes a look back at 20 years of successful camera trapping by the WCS-India Program.

The Fight to Save the TigerMarch 21, 2012

Scientists and government officials from across the world come to India’s Nagarahole National Park to learn how tiger champion and WCS Senior Scientist Ullas Karanth has reversed the tide for this big cat on the brink.

Saving the Last Strongholds for TigersSeptember 14, 2010

WCS-Russia director Dale Miquelle discusses the unique challenges of conserving Siberian tigers.

WCS Urges Obama to Help Save TigersJuly 22, 2010

A WCS scientist goes to Washington to speak for tigers and the protection of their remaining habitat across Asia.

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