The Indian government has tried everything to save its endangered tigers. It has airlifted the animal into nature reserves, built fences to separate the felines from local people, and instructed the forest department to act as both protectors and defenders of the big cats. Yet tiger numbers keep dwindling.

A 3-year old female tiger splashes in water during a rescue operation after the feline fell into a well in Nagpur. (AFP/Getty Images)

Now, the government is taking a more drastic measure, sending a group armed commandos out into the jungle to stop tiger poachers in their tracks. Poachers are a major part of tiger loss in India, with half of the big cats killed in the state of Karnataka during the past five years the work of poachers.

The Agence-France Presse reports that the new anti-poaching Special Tiger Protection Force includes 54 commandos, who will patrol the two major tiger reserves in Bandipur and Nagarhole, located on the border between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

A Manipur commando. (Anupam Nath/AP)

The force is well-equipped to handle the jungle, having just undergone a three-month course in jungle survival techniques as well as training in armed and unarmed combat, field engineering and map reading.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has also reserved 500 million rupees ($9.5 million) for similar protection forces in other tiger reserves across India.

India, which is home to half of the world’s endangered wild tiger population, has seen the numbers of its big cats dwindle from an estimated 40,000 animals in 1947 to 1,411 in 2006. Many of the tigers’ carcasses are sold to China, where they are used in traditional medicine.

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