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Khandal invited a bunch of friends over, but before they arrived, he secretly cut a small hole in a curtain and placed a video camera behind it. When the time was right, he sat down with Ram Singh near the curtain, opened a beer, and handed the poacher a fifth of whisky. They drank. They chatted. They drank some more. After two hours Khandal, a teetotaler, still had half a beer. Ram Singh’s bottle was empty, and he was now on the floor vomiting blood. The young man had hepatitis B, apparently, which doesn’t go well with Scotch. Khandal rushed him to the hospital, and fortunately, Ram Singh survived.

Khandal quickly pounced.

“You really talk when you’re drunk,” he said. “You talked about your family killing tigers. It’s all on video.” He showed Ram Singh the curtain and the camera. He threatened to show the video to the Moghiyas.

“If you do that they’ll kill me,” Ram Singh said.

“I know,” Khandal replied.

Ram Singh cratered. He proceeded to tell Khandal everything about poaching in Ranthambhore.

There were five gangs working specific areas of the park, each with up to a dozen members. These gangs were intricately connected to each other through blood and marriage. All told, the gangs killed more than 20 tigers, using a variety of methods. Some shot them from trees. Others captured tigers with leg traps and then executed them. The gangs sold the skin and bones to several traders, who had the skins tanned in the neighboring state of Madhya Pradesh, a major hub for India’s illegal wildlife trade. From there, two bigger traders transported the goods to Delhi.

That’s all Ram Singh knew. He didn’t know that from Delhi a Tibetan kingpin named Neema Kampa was moving the tiger parts east and over the border into Nepal and Tibet. An even more notorious player, Sansar Chand, had been doing the same with the tigers from Sariska. Both men were part of a multibillion-dollar wildlife trade that trails only drug and arms smuggling as a global criminal activity. (A 2008 report by the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources revealed that crime syndicates are often involved in all three dealings; the report also cited evidence linking terrorist activity to the illegal animal trade.) An investigation by Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India would later prove that many of the country’s tigers ended up in Lhasa, Tibet, where Khampa Tibetan Buddhists buy scores of skins each year to decorate their traditional costumes. Beyond Tibet, China’s expanding affluent classes are buying tiger skins as status symbols, while the bones end up in the booming traditional medicine market. A tiger skin sold in China can fetch $50,000, almost 50 times the amount paid to poachers.

Khandal created flowcharts and Venn diagrams. He cross-referenced and triple-checked everything, and once he’d sucked Ram Singh dry regarding every poacher and trader connected to Ranthambhore, he met with Alok Vashisth, the police superintendent in a district just south of Ranthambhore. “Dharm did such a thorough job,” says Vashisth. “It’s amazing because he received no help or acknowledgment from the forest service whatsoever.”

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  • Life of this man is really worth meaning
  • This is a great article. I have heard a lot about Dharmendra Khandal and his efforts to save tigers …
  • every park in this country should have an independent team working on the lines of Dharm but this is…
  • Being a huge wildlife the Jungle calls me every few months . I have seen tigers in Sariska ,Ranthamb…
  • Being a huge wildlife the Jungle calls me every few months . I have seen tigers in Sariska ,Ranthamb…
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