Film star gets year in prison for poaching
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2006:
JODHPUR–Indian film star Salman Khan, 40, on February 17,
2006 was sentenced to serve a year in prison and was fined an amount
equal to about $125 U.S. for poaching two chinkara deer on the nights
of September 26-27, 1998.
This was the first of four poaching cases pending against
Khan, who is also fighting vehicular manslaughter charges in Mumbai
for killing a man in a 2002 traffic accident.
Jodhpur Chief Judicial Magistrate B.K. Jain acquitted seven
others accused in the 1998 chinkara poaching case, including
comedian Satish Shah.
Among the stars-of-the-month depicted in the 1999 World
Wildlife Fund-India calendar, Salman Khan often led illegal shooting
parities into the Rajasthan desert during fall 1998, witnesses
testified, but repeated complaints to police and wildlife officials
failed to bring him to justice.
Finally members of the staunchly anti-hunting Bishnois sect
gathered evidence of Khan’s activities, and marched 5,000 strong on
foot to Mumbai to demand justice.
Fearing the Bishnois despite their reputation for practicing
nonviolence, even at cost of their own lives, Salman Khan
reportedly hid at the home of the chairman of WWF-India’s Rajasthan
committee until his arrest.
The Khan prosecution was repeatedly delayed by witnesses who
claimed to have forgotten key details and were often suspected of
having been bribed.
Opponents of reintroducing sport hunting to India point toward the
Khan case as evidence that Indian law enforcement is not strong
enough to regulate a hunting industry.
U.S. President George W. Bush reportedly lobbied Indian
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to accept U.S. funds for tiger
conservation in July 2005, when Singh visited the White House, but
Singh refused the money rather than give the U.S. leverage toward
seeking to reintroduce trophy hunting to India.
Between Indian independence in 1949 until India banned sport
hunting in 1973, U.S. hunters shot tigers and many other Indian
animals to the verge of extinction.
“The Ministry of Environment and Forests might have ruffled
diplomatic feathers by rejecting the U.S. government proposal for
tiger funds,” noted Jay Mazoomdaar of The Indian Express in
September 2005, “but donations are trickling in from certain
American canned hunting organizations,” suspected of trying to
establish a political foothold in India.
“Pressured by wildlife groups,” Mazoomdaar explained, “the
U.S. government decided not to renew licenses for canned hunting” of
species which are considered endangered or threatened abroad,
“unless ranches donate 10% of profit toward conservation. Licence
renewal applications submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
show that the 007 Ranch in Texas has been donating 10% of proceedings
to Conservation Force to fund a Barasingha [swamp deer] project
conducted by the Wildlife Society of India,” Mazoomdaar added, “run
by faculty members of Aligarh Muslim University’s Center of
Ornithology and Wildlife. The latest installment of $4,000 was paid
in November 2004.
“Florida’s TRL Exotics claimed to have donated $250 to the
Wildlife Institute of India, a claim dismissed by the prestigious
institute,” Mazoomdaar continued.
“We get money from Conservation Force. But we have no idea
if it comes from hunting ranches,” Wildlife Society of India vice
president Afifullah Khan said.
Khan directs efforts to rebuild Barasingha populations in the
Dudhwa Tiger Reserve and Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary– and
Mazoomdaar had reason to be skeptical of the involvement of both
Conservation Force and TRL Exotics.
Conservation Force founder John J. Jackson III is a Louisiana
attorney who for nearly 40 years has specialized in representing
hunters. His firm opposed listing African elephants and Baja desert
sheep as endangered species, and won permission for hunters to
import elephant trophies despite the CITES ban on trafficking in
elephant parts. Jackson is a past president of Safari Club
The Conservation Force board includes Jackson’s wife, former
International Professional Hunters Association president Don Lindsay,
hunting booking agent Bert Klineberger, French hunting advocate
Bert-rand des Clers, and James G. Terr, a retired Texas A&M
University professor who from 1969-1978 held the Caesar Kleberg Chair
of Wildlife Ecology.
The chair was endowed by the hunting ranch developer who in
1924 introduced nilgai, or “Indian elk,” to Texas. Feral herds now
roam the Rio Grande Valley–and as of January 2006 were targeted for
culling by the USDA Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program.
“Both the 007 Ranch and TRL Exotics offer Barasingha as
trophies for $4,500,” Mazoomdaar wrote.
Doing business as Double H Exotics in Wellington, Florida,
TRL Exotics in mid-2005 sought U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
permission to allow trophy hunters to kill both ranched Barasingha
and Arabian oryx.
Former U.S. Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich rallied opposition.