Skinning a tiger is as difficult a task as poaching it and finding a buyer for it requires a fair knowledge of the anatomy of the big cat. The skin has to be extracted without causing any damage to it or the nails. An inquiry into the killing of a tiger in Pembi range of Kawal Tiger Reserve has held Gugloth Prakash, the prime accused in the tiger poaching case, as the one who has skinned the big cat.
“Prakash is a notorious wildlife criminal in the area,” alleged Kagaznagar Forest Divisional Officer M. Raja Ramana Reddy, who conducted an inquiry into the matter and submitted a report. “He has the needed expertise in skinning a tiger,” he opined, quoting his report.
If a farmer gains expertise in skinning wild animals, it only reveals that poaching is a regular phenomenon in the area. Some of the officials, however, seem to be of the opinion that the expertise in skinning goats and sheep is sufficient for removing the skin of a tiger. “Every village has a butcher who can do this work,” opined an official. “It will, therefore, be a good move to monitor the activities of all those who have some knowledge in this regard,” he added.
“It may not be enough for the local butcher just to skin the animal,” countered a member of the field staff involved in monitoring of tigers in the erstwhile Adilabad district. “The process involves at least a few days as the skin needs to be treated with salt and other things and all fats removed so that it’s safe from attack by ants,” he pointed out, hinting towards a flourishing trend of poaching within KTR.
“Abundant care needs to be taken during the process so that the skin does not get torn near the eye openings or the mouth and while extracting nails,” continued a member of the field staff. “The big cats have soft paws which are linked to the nails and the expert ensures that neither the pads of the paws nor the nails get damaged,” he added driving home the point that only rampant poaching can result in expertise.
The nails, which end up as a locket part of an ornament, are equally important as they fetch hefty price in the ‘underground’ market. Both the skin and nails are used in occult practice which is why the price in the illegal market is upwards of ₹15 lakh based on the age of the animal.