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As little as early as 2007, India was claiming to have nearly 4000 tigers left in its reserves. Skeptics in the conservation community suspected that the numbers were inflated. We had no idea how much but in the next few months, a disturbing picture was emerging. By mid-2007 estimates of the numbers of tigers in India had fallen to 1400.

Counting tigers is an imprecise process, as numbers often have to be extrapolated from indirect signs. Pug marks on tracks are very important, since direct observation is actually very rare. Tigers are rarely seen, and they like it that way.

Sadly, the signs were not good that India had poaching under control.

Now it appears even the 1400 tiger-estimate is optimistic. Numbers of 800 are being suggested now.

The guardian link pinpoints one of the major facts about the illegal tiger trade. That is that the actual poaching is dominated by local peoples, often from hunting cultures or communities. These people have hunted tigers, leopards and other wildlife for centuries. The criminal conspiracies that move tiger parts throughout Asia, depend heavily on these local communities to poach the tigers in the first place. The first stage of the supply chain, depends on the complicit involvement of range-state peoples.