TIGER WWF
Investigations into organised wildlife trafficking crimes has led to over 70 tiger trade hubs being identified in India.WWF

A study published in Biological Conservation identifies 73 tiger trade hubs in Indian districts where there is a high probability of poaching and illegal trade in tiger parts.

Situated close to tiger habitats, these hubs spread across southern and central India are facilitating the smuggling of tiger parts to China, Indonesia and other south-east Asian nations by crossing the Nepal border.

The Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) has recorded a rise in poaching and trafficking of wild tiger parts, up from 32 in 2012 to 42 in 2013.

According to the study, this rise indicates that detection of the crime was improving, or that it is truly rising.

New trends have also seen shifts in the trafficking routes with railways being increasingly favoured.

By nature of being crowded and connected to remote parts, they offer advantages not available with road transport, according to Belinda Wright from WPSI.

Tiger numbers that were around 100,000 last century are now pegged at less than 3000. Massive habitat loss and poaching are the two prime reasons for the decimation.

The study based on about 40 years of tiger trade data collected by WPSI comes in the wake of a recent Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) statement that illegal trafficking in wildlife is seeing a shift from traditional uses, such as ingredients in medicines, to a display of wealth.

Increasingly, more people are flaunting tiger skins and parts during festivals in Tibet, while in China slaughter of tigers is becoming a 'visual feast' for the wealthy to display, writes Nature World News.

Seizure of tiger specimens increased in Southeast Asia in recent years. Of 61 live tigers seized in the period 2010 to 2012, 74% were confiscated in three South-East Asian countries – the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Thailand and Vietnam.

The traffick in tiger and leopard parts is a very well-organised and high-paying one, with Indian poachers making around $1,500 (£925) for a tiger skin, while his Chinese counterpart can make $4,500 for killing a tiger.

According to the World Wildlife Fund there are as few as 3,200 wild Asian tigers left today, but unofficial estimates often place the amount at around 1,600.

While habitat loss over the previous few decades is a primary reason for tigers dying out – 93% of their forest territories has been destroyed – poaching is the other major reason for tiger populations falling from approximately 100,000 in the 1910s to present figures.

Indonesia alone cleared more than 840,000 hectares of forest in 2012 reports Nature World News, citing a new study published in Nature Climate Change.