Fourteen arrested in clampdown on poachers

September 21, 2006

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Police in the Andaman islands have arrested 14 men who illegally entered the reserve of the isolated Jarawa tribe. Survival and groups in the islands have been urging the government to clamp down on rampant poaching in the reserve.

The islands police launched a new drive against poaching in the Jarawa's forest and along their coast in June. Since then there have been a number of arrests. Regulations have also been amended so that those found guilty of poaching face a mandatory jail term of up to two years.

Previously, many poachers had merely been fined, or even escaped punishment altogether as the police failed to patrol the Jarawa's reserve properly.

Poaching is one of the most dangerous problems facing the tribe – it brings them into contact with settlers, who can carry Western diseases which could be fatal to the tribe. The poachers also steal the game which is essential to the Jarawa's survival, and are known to take alcohol and tobacco into the reserve in an attempt to create a dependence on them.

Survival believes that as well as ensuring that poachers are kept out of the Jarawa reserve, the administration must close the Andaman Trunk Road, the main highway through the islands which cuts through the reserve. India's Supreme Court ordered that this be closed in 2002, but it remains open.

It is also essential that the Jarawa are allowed to make their own decisions about their future. A recent report by a 'Sub-Group of Experts' for India's Planning Commission reached the same conclusion.