Sunday, July 14, 2019

Tiger Conservation: Elephant Migration in Central India

Mystery Migration Indian Elephants

Elephants have been recorded in Central India or Madhya Pradesh historically and evidence in form of craftsmanship (Artifacts) is suggestive of their presence rather strongly well back in time. Though no earlier in sightings have been recorded in MP except incrusions in Surguja District now a part of neighboring Chhattisgarh State, a very recent surprise incursion has taken place into the dense confines of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve a part of Central India. Recent news is suggestive of their movement into Kanha National Park as well some 200 km from Bandhavgarh.    

Wild Elephants

The reason for migration would be competition among the herds and or search for new pastures. These mammals have an indelible memory bank and finding erstwhile routes is not difficult. Their instincts could also have lead them here. Already two calves have been born at Bandhavgarh.   

Understanding The Ecology & Impact

Elephants are mega herbivores  and consume more than 100 species of plant matter including tree barks, leaves and soft branches. In general they are grazers and browsers and food selection is due to abundance and season. In one day an adult may consume about 150 kgs of  plant material including tall grass. 

Now wild elephants arrival to Central Indian Forests is good news but their is a catch. If these pachyderms have found back their erstwhile home their arrival though not marked with pessimism  will be a matter of some serious study. Their arrival has to be seen with a bit of caution. 

The reason for this circumspect approach is due to shrunken ecosystem that now prevails in the present as compared with the past whence there was no shortage of forest cover. In these times competition for fodder would be serious in areas with robust prey base.

The pachyderms are rapacious feeders and consume almost hundred and fifty kilo grams of food comprising of plant matter, bamboo and grass. Though the number of migrants is small compared to the area, the increase in population and further migration could add to immense biotic pressure and pose a severe threat to herbivores which cannot compete with these large mammals.     

In time to come animals like Swamp Deer, and spotted deer would face severe pressure the former being a total graminivore. Pressure would also be upon the bison or gaur. These animals constitute main prey base of the tiger. Hence the tiger breeding will be reduced for there is a co-relation between availability of food and procreation among the carnivores. During the summers there will be increased competition for scarce water as well.

All this may not happen immediately but will certainly happen in the future. It is up to the field biologists to make an extensive study and come to the right conclusion. All factors have to be taken into account and carefully calibrated.   

It is too early to predict the outcome since the pachyderms may prefer to stay in an area where they may not create competition or they may migrate or make local migration reducing the area of impact.. If they begin the migration process with a period spent here they may not cause pressure enough to create competition. 

With massive clearance of forests the paradigm has changed and long term impact will have to be taken into account. In areas already sustaining large populations of elephants the plant matter consumed without exhausting the ecosystem may not be present in the tiger reserves of  Central India.

Uday works as a naturalist and blogs on conservation in India.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Tiger Conservation - Urbanization The Deadly Menace

Minimizing Destruction of Our Natural Lands

It keeps spreading its tentacles all around, and you cannot blame anyone except us. You cannot blame the politicians, planners and developers. Anyway they do not plan they just fulfill. It is we who have multiplied like rats and taken over our naturals lands which the Earth had nourished for centuries right from the day evolution came into the picture.


Traffic congestion
People who read history of civilizations know that towns and cities will come and go but now in their wake they will leave back ravaged lands that may take eons to recover. In order to settle thousands of families cities, towns, villages keep on spreading without planning and with total disregard for nature. A builder least admires an eco-niche in the neighbourhood nor does he feel guilty of placing concrete structures over them stifling microcosm of life forever. In fact we are so impressed by concrete structures that we concrete everything around us even natural gardens, wild bushes, small jungles, beautiful lakes and ponds where in lot of organisms and avian life depends upon the natural embankments and depth as well. 

Our eyes glow bright when we see magnificent edifices the concrete structures embracing our towns and cities. That is development! (Sic). When the structures start to decay we continue living there, a stoic and helpless attitude that we have developed as a matter of consequence.

Cities are rotting, there is water shortage, dirt, smog, pollution living conditions are like hell. Deadly pollution thanks to smoke belching industries, cars uncountable, congestion, drying lakes and water bodies polluted to the brim and over all the looming climate change ...there you have it! Slowly you come to understand what is unplanned development that damages the environment and invites disease, mental disorder and more.

The ill planned overwhelming urbanization is taking over the remaining natural lands in all settlements now from metros to even small towns. The latter come under the scanner of infrastructure development in forms of rail lines, highways and dams. This affects the wildlife and can be disastrous for endangered species like the tiger, lion and elephant to mention a few.


Grasslands + Forests

The sharp reduction in numbers of tigers in India has been mainly due to loss of habitat. Tigers need specialized habitats which only dense forests containing untouched wilderness can offer. Unfortunately in India forests have been converted to agricultural fields, industrial belts, ravaged by mines and now urbanization which is creeping into even small places auguring a dark future. If we do not reduce our carbon footprints global warming can become serious where sustenance of life may not be possible. Hence we humans are also at risk and perhaps face extinction too?

Where will the buck stop nobody knows? Man animal conflicts, extinction of species, water shortages due to destruction of rivers and due to climate change all are as a result of man's total disregard for nature conservation.

We should consider destruction of nature as an impending disaster, and accord importance to its preservation. In governance this should be a major issue there should be debates and discussions on this. But this does not happen people are not aware or simply do not care, and politicians take advantage and do not take environmental issues into consideration except accord some lip service.

What future awaits our gen next? What about climate change knocking at our doorsteps? What are we doing to minimize fossil fuel consumption? What are we doing to stop the production of pollutants, toxins and hazardous chemicals. All this should be taken into account during the political discourse? Is it being done? Ask yourself, write or raise your voice before it is too late.

Uday works as a naturalist in India and blogs on environment and conservation issues.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Tiger Conservation and Locals - PAs - A Paradigm Shift!

On popular platforms some expert writers, advocates, blogger and NGOs time and again suggest vociferously the greater involvement of the local communities in the conservation of our precious ecosystems i.e those remaining. Ironically what they mean is do away with the protected area system...that has successfully shaped conservation in India, and brought many species out of extinction. Little do they know that the local communities on many instances have unintentionally damaged the natural lands and have brought many species on to the brink of extinction. Our small tiger reserves are a shameful example of land shrunken drastically due exploitation of forests by ever growing population of humans and subsequent denudation.

Swamp Deer

The threat perception is real and their (authors/advocates) understanding of species survival is at best limited, and they have no cognition of critical habitats and or protected areas that should and must remain inviolate. 

We need thinkers, policymakers and activists who understand the predicament that other life forms are facing in this human centric World. Conservation management is scientific, bound by rationale and not by emotions and in the present context certainly not by human history. 

PA concept is not at all elitist or discriminatory as many would advocate, it is based on scientific rationale and most important it provides succor to other life forms, and does away with omnipresent human footsteps considering the massive population bulge we have in this country. The sore point for some is that it facilitates tourism which many consider as elitist without giving a thought to conservation impetus it creates among the masses and the revenue and much needed employment it generates among the locals. In years of its popularity the ecosystems have benefited by regulated tourism and should now be an issue of least concern.   

The forests for example were always pristine and literally inviolate since the population span was contained in the centuries gone past. Not so in the contemporary times whence the population span has expanded beyond means and hardly any space for the survival of species is left inviolate. If this had not been the case the concept of protected area would have not come into the picture at all. The PAs are certainly required now and delimiting would prove to be disastrous especially in the case of animals like the swamp deer and the tiger.     

Well to be honest not only the locals, many of us irrespective of the location of domain have contributed to extensive damage to our ecosystems. The locals have contributed their share of destruction by tilling few remaining natural lands and creating immense biotic pressure through the live stock rearing in an unscientific manner. There involvement in poaching though not on large scale cannot be negated either. This is certainly not a spirit of coexistence a favourite phrase used by the enlightened who consider local communities as still living in a stone age. The local communities have undergone a paradigm shift during this century and look forward to be a part  of the mainstream.  The next gen is certainly headed for the urban surroundings as no suitable or alternative source of income exists for the erudite in the remote surroundings. 

The NGOs or some of these writers/researchers have conjectured a picture of tribal in their minds of static, lifeless, assemblage of flesh and bones, who will remain fixed to a time long gone past and be immobile for ever. The local communities are evolving too and need to assimilate the way whole country is doing. They do not wish to remain stuck in the past living in isolation.  They do not wish to be pushed deeper into the inaccessible wild realms with no infrastructure and modern facilities.

Tribal - Neeraj Vegad
Most of those who write on this subject have no understanding of issues pertaining to conservation as a holistic model and are keen to provide a panacea through their emotional tag lines. Many of those who understand this issue are bound by their own emotions which ends up restricting their perspective and miss the imperative.  They are not aware of conservation practises being pursued by the wildlife managers and they certainly do not know about scientific approach that lies behind the involvement of local communities in and around our tiger reserves to be more precise. Just the flair for writing is not enough a writer should have an in depth understanding of the topic before holding the pen.  

We have to understand that conservation in our country has two facets, one is the human conundrum which now includes the indigenous communities, and second are the ecosystems and wildlife within. We are ruthless whence wilderness creeps into our urbanity but wish to share a large chunk of ecosystems belonging to other life forms. Hence the two are now separate entities and the spirit of coexistence is limited to live and let live principle. Coexistence cannot take place by sharing the tiger reserves or National Parks with local communities. These ecosystems will remain inviolate and strictly. On the contrary more inviolate space will have to be allocated especially for conservation of endangered animals like the tiger, Asiatic Lion, swamp deer and more.   

Till so called experts do not accept the separation of the two entities mentioned above, the fate of the big cats and the tribal will remain precarious.
Uday works as a naturalist and loves to blog on conservation.
He can be contacted at: 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tiger Conservation The Human Conundrum

This period of April and May were months of extreme upheaval in India as the nation was embroiled in a contentious parliamentary poll. The largest democracy naturally conducts the largest exercise at the hustings. The highlight of parliamentary elections in the country was of course the virulent campaigns that began and ended with unending fervor. The aftermath ended in a reverberating but gradually quietening atmosphere as the results were declared and winners took their seat.

For all political parties in India the propaganda revolves around many populist  issues, but completely neglects the conservation and environmental issues though as matter of principle they are ingrained in our policies albeit executed with scant regard.

The first to inculcate the order of nature and wildlife conservation in India where the Vedic literature, but we have conveniently forgotten them, the scientific journals have been relegated into back ground as forgotten and inconsequential part of our history.

The conservation ethos were carried forward by Asoka the Great, and after centuries of continuous destruction we had a leader in Smt.Indira Gandhi who rejuvenated the conservation practises by inducting laws that mattered. The tiger and the ecosystem as whole were the major beneficiaries of steps taken during her governance. Her zealous pursuit of protecting India's heritage was effective in conserving whatever that was left. But after her sad demise no one stepped into her shoes. 

In midst of the mind boggling exercise one issue as always took a complete back seat for nowhere was there a mention of environment and nature in a country where multitudinous masses live. All through the campaigning there was  worst kind of slander that included personal jibes, insults and revelations all at the lowest level possible.

Forget about the environment and our remaining natural heritage no issues of serious nature were ever brought forth or discussed. That is how the prospects irrespective of their drawing treat their subjects - gullible, downtrodden, ignorant and living in stone age. The appeal for the vote is more of a tamasha, steeped in loud promises of piquant favors, charismatic chest thumping and yes development.   

After the hustings all promises are forgotten except the development mantra which all parties think will offer a permanent majority in the parliament for decades. All the time the mantra of development was aimed at more than one billion people a promise if rightly fulfilled could lead to betterment of living conditions and emancipation from abject poverty the large populace is steeped in.   

The goggle eyed voters could understand the mantra of development very well but the related issues were not even in the picture. The emancipation that was promised was all that mattered - a panacea for all that ails the society.

Where would the succor come from with deteriorating climatic conditions, abject shortage of water and badly polluted environment without proper mix of air. The water shortage is a serious matter that should concern one and all especially those at the helm of governance.

We are constantly hurting our ecosystems (rivers, forests, deserts, grasslands) that deliver clean and fresh air, large tracts of forests are being decimated for linear development for highways, settlements and infrastructure expansion. Mining woes are not being mitigating at all. Environmental clearances are taking place in a jiffy with no serious thought to impending disasters, industrial belts and deadly polluting mega industries are taking their toll in this country with ever increasing haste.

Species endangerment is taking place with the blink of the eye. A large number of species have already been lost. Does all this not matter? Aren't the participants of the democratic process the citizens not entitled to enlightenment as to what safeguards are being put in place that would prevent further depredation. Should not they be revealed during the poll propaganda? Who bothers? 

Human centric development has always been the core practice of ruling polities with abject disregard for nature. This has been a global phenomenon and cuts across the vast spectrum of political establishments everywhere. India is not alone in this disastrous way of governance, we are in tandem with the World.

But ironically this does not alarm us. Nature is our life support system but we have taken it for granted. A denuded patch of forest does not raise eyebrows as it should hence climate change in worst form is imminent.

A radical shift has to take place among the rulers as to how development and urbanization should be carried out. All the hindrances which are genuine should be respected and alternative found. You cannot write off a strip of forest just to aid a highway or an industrial area. But this is happening and slowly we are destroying our green lungs and precious habitats which will augur climate change to extreme.

The effect of our haste will result in an environmental condition that would make species survival  (including man) extremely difficult. The tiger has been the worst sufferer being an indicator species sitting at the top of food chain we cannot let it go. Proper development policies without damaging the ecosystems, and keeping in mind the environmental consequences are imperative we should change over to.

For every step we take towards so called development we have to keep its impact on nature all the time. The institutions in India will play a major role in safeguarding our environment in times to come. Provided  there is the necessary radical shift in our perspective and less destructive paradigm sets in. 

The public should play an important role as a watchdog and be conscious about social ills like exponential population growth which has to be brought down. Not only as tourists, we should reduce the biotic pressures on our surroundings in day to day living with responsible lifestyle.

Uday works as a naturalist at Kanha National Park in India.
He oftens writes on conservation issues as blogger.
He can be contacted:

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Amazing Jungle Lore - The Tiger & The Bison - Coexistence in Harmony

One Hot Summer!

Guests Ansi & Micheal UK
Courtyard House Kanha
Kanha National Park - Central India 

Little could I imagine whence I stopped the safari jeep at Nakti Ghati (a large water body) as to what all would transpire.  Wild safaris at Kanha National Park turn electric at any given moment but more so if you know the place well and the movement of the animals.   

Albeit, I knew this was the area of a huge male, we actually stopped to get a glimpse of birds as well as admire the lovely and pristine landscape. Kanha landscape retains its pristine glory, frozen in time and space whence our prehistoric ancestors roamed in the wilderness. The tigers in this area are less reason being less vehicular movement. Hence it is at such places that surprise sightings take place. 

Confined to our jeep, I was photographing the creatures of the wetland, and my guest were busy admiring the surroundings. Well we were in no hurry as some jeeps zipped past us. 

"Let them go," I blurted to the guide and the driver. "We are in no hurry!" 

My movements during the safaris are sometimes heavily laboured as I try to capture the essence of every nook and jungle parlay it means a niche habitat. 

Those who have never been to Kanha should visit Nakti Ghati water body if they ever do. We were heading towards the Kanha Meadow in order to see the tigers which we had located in the morning. And so after the brief we decided to move ahead. But as soon as the driver placed his fingers on the starter I  stopped him. 

"A sambar alarm cry," I whispered. 

Now this is a sure shot sign of a tiger's presence for these large Asian deers' are rarely alarmed by small predators or spooked, and not often surprised by jeep movements. 

"It could be a leopard,"my driver whispered back. Well I had seen tiger pug marks often here and I was expecting one to arrive to drink. Anyway we decided to wait, the alarm cries continued intermittently stopping for a brief - now and then. 

In order to track tiger one needs incredible patience, a time tested quality of all experienced  naturalists and forest guides. There is a deep urge to move ahead in order not to miss the imagined. Ha!    

"Lets shift the jeep back to the bunch of trees behind us, I instructed the driver." He did. 

In case of tigresses most of them are very very shy and if you are not inconspicuous or dead silent they never emerge as has been my experience. 

The alarm cries where confusing emerging from different direction but all close by. This made us think that a tigress was trying to move stealthily away from us after having seen the jeep. They usually do before we can spot them. 

Well we stayed put, and silent. Nothing happened, and the forest guide suggested that we move ahead without losing any more time. We had waited for almost half and hour. But I had an inclination that whatever it was a tiger or a tigress it had moved behind us. So I instructed the driver to move behind us to about twenty yards and wait for at least five minutes. Well we did not had to wait that long. For from behind the far away bushes a huge male tiger emerged walked coolly towards us, crossed the road, and headed towards the water body. These creatures, the male tigers are bold and dominant, they rarely flinch a muscle in presence of man.

Can you imagine what transpires in your mind and body whence you sight a tiger like that? If you cannot then join me in a tiger safari and bet on your luck and my tracking. Both are essential. Anyway my guests were busy with their mobile camera, and I with my Sony Bridge Camera  busy making a video.   

We knew that the tiger (with a gash on the right brow) would move towards the water in this summer heat. And so we moved back to the wooden bridge at Nakti Ghati and found the tiger immersing back first into the water. It had managed to frighten the sambar and spotted deer but a group of bisons (Gaur) persisted. 

Normally the snorting bisons (blowing wind from their nostrils) too move away to avoid being close to this magnificent predator. But this did not happen. 

An Amazing Spectacle! A Spirit of Coexistence!

Their where two behavioural surprises here. One, the tiger nearly always moves away from the huge bison. In fact most of the guides do not look for the big cat in vicinity of the Gaur. The second surprise was that the bisons too keep a safe distance from the predator. This time they stayed close busy quenching their thirst.

None of this happened as we watched absolutely stunned. The distance between the tiger in water and the gaurs was perhaps not more than five yards. And both were quenching their thirst peacefully without any apprehension. I have captured this sighting in my videos and inserted them here.

In wild, energy is a crucial life support element to be preserved, the bisons having noticed the mood of the male tiger were at ease and did not scamper away. They could see him well and hence could scamper if any aggression did take place. That saves energy!

There was no show of aggression as both had one purpose that of quenching thirst in the heat of the summer. The bisons, as usually all females were in a group, so less chance of being attacked. Anyway the carnivore was not on a hunt. 

The moral of the story live in harmony with a spirit of coexistence in diversity.  

We watched the spectacle in peace for a long time as the tiger often raised his huge head to look at us now and then. In absolute silence and privacy we waited a long time enjoying the ethereal moment and then turned back to the gate to make a timely exit.

Uday Works as Sr.Naturalist at Kanha National Park in India
He loves to blog on Indian Wildlife and Tiger Conservation

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Tiger Safari Video Footage

Kanha National Park

My work as naturalist offers opportunity for sighting tigers of which I make videos to preserve as memory. These four tiger safari videos highlight my work as a naturalist. These video footage have been filmed  keeping a safe distance without distrubing the tigers. 


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Tiger Conservation: Cattle Conundrum

Holy Cow!

Considered as holy the cow is one of the most ill treated animal in India. Left vagabond on the streets to forage on waste and litter, the animal survives under deep stress and is ridden with ill health. Though there is no shortage of  organized cattle farms and gaushalas, the cattle left astray are owned by people who put forward a claim only whence milking is concerned. They are then left entirely on the mercy of the weather and waste and litter. They are a road safety hazards and a shame on us!

Why this neglect whence we consider it as the holiest of all animals ironically even above the critically endangered tiger?   

Cattle rearing practice is age old and along with other elements of livestock has been the main stay of the households all over rural India. Albeit little is known about beef consumption in earlier times the animals diary produce was always an important element of our existence. Due to its importance in our lives it was ordained a holy status and Hindus with vast majority being vegetarians began to revere it to the point that beef consumption became unthinkable.

But what role does the cow play in conservation especially the tiger conservation. Cows along with other livestock are left to forage in our wilderness. This practice has a detrimental effect since it  denudes forests and grasslands, increases biotic pressures and contributes to man animal conflict as well. 

Our forest ecosystems have been at the receiving end with severe denudation taking place. The wild herbivores have been the worst sufferers since rearing livestock (cattle, buffalo, sheep and goat) became widespread. Being an important means of sustenance this practice was never discouraged on the contrary it became an important industry. But unlike other countries this pastoral livelihood was only partially organized, the rest being tended by people who could ill afford investment in proper dairy farming. 
Inability to feed their keep the poor and as a matter of opportunity for the affluent among the rural communities in most of the forested regions all found succor in the ample vegetation growing around their settlements.  The ravage still continues with no solution in sight.       

The effect of unorganized cattle rearing  with dependence on forests for food is reason for severe biotic stress and the herbivores have been the losers. Along with the cattle foraging in the forests the consequent tree felling has had a disastrous impact on our tiger reserves noticeably in the buffer.  The livestock also drains crucial water resources.

Another harmful consequence of this practice has been the increase in man animal conflict. Cattle whence they enter the forests to forage are susceptible to predator attacks especially from the tigers and to some extent from the leopards. In retaliation the carcass or half eaten cattle is poisoned leading to the death of the predator. This is a common occurance around our tiger reserves.    

In order to mitigate this conflict quick compensation is resorted to by the department with aid from NGOs. As a precautionary measure the cattle kill is quickly removed from the spot to a place where the predator cannot reach. This is done to avoid retaliatory poisoning by the owners. 

The preposterously huge numbers of cattle around our tiger reserves especially in the buffer zones is a major cause of concern. This is one of the serious threat to the ecosystem and results in reduced prey base due to stiff competition between the wild species and the livestock. While the formers practice of foraging leaves space for regeneration the livestock practice may not. In order to worsen the situation the herdsmen also resort to felling of trees in order to facilitate consumption by the livestock.

Being natural inhabitants of land since evolution the wild species are able to process seeds through their digestive system to facilitate regeneration. And apart from this they do not transmit disease organism which the livestock is wont to do. In fact wild animal diseases with man and livestock as carriers is a major concern in the arena of conservation.   

Disease like rinderpest, anthrax, foot and mouth disease are a severe threat to wild mammals and an outbreak has occurred many times at Kanha Tiger Reserve severely depleting the population of gaur. Though incidence of infectious disease borne by the livestock is not prevalent at the present juncture the threat remains.  

Every time I visit Kanha National Park I see large number of cattle foraging in the buffer zone. This number is inexplicable especially whence very little income is generated by the owners. The yield of milk is low and as a common practice only single crop of paddy is grown in the buffer. 

The restriction is limited to the core zone but who knows what happens in non tourism core area since nobody except the department is able to set foot there. Not leaving things to wild conjecture the core zone or critical tiger habitat is secure from the onslaught of  the livestock.    

Keeping in mind the human pressure it is unthinkable to impose restriction in the buffer zone. But nevertheless more organized dairy practises could be encouraged which would reduce biotic pressure. A better breed of cattle is essential if organized dairy as means of livelihood is brought into practice here. Until then the scourge remains.

Uday Works As A Naturalist
He Writes on Conservation Issues

Monday, February 11, 2019

Man Animal Conflict: Wild Elephants & Habitat Loss

Unearthing the Earth!

{Governments do not look beyond the projects! When framing a developmental project please spell out the environmental concern first! We do not want a rail line or a highway passing from a land belonging to other life forms in our precious habitats!}

First it was the rapid expansion of agriculture and settlements that decimated vast habitats in India. Now we have this development thing going with a jingoistic fervor beyond comprehension. The agriculture lands rapidly converted...taken away from wild animals or other life forms... were primarily forests and to some extent grasslands, not forgetting aquatic ecosystems that were destroyed in the wake. 

While in case of tigers, they were completely wiped out from denuded forests all over the country, the elephants clung to the remains and inaccessible regions since being coarse grazers they are not specialized hunters like the big cats. But their population grew in time to come especially, from ban on hunting which was a must. 

What we fail to realize is that floral diversity is the prey base of the elephants like in case of many other herbivores. It is this floral diversity we are losing in the country. Please do not look from the perspective of protected areas they constitute a miniscule of land. Conservation has to be widespread pervasive constructively.     

The pillage has resulted in severe man animal conflict vis a vis the pachyderm and man. As the elephants venture back into what were their earlier feeding grounds they find the urban assemblage highways, rails, canals, dams, settlements, industries and mining grounds apart from acres of fields to their consternation. 

Umbrage as results is difficult to manage and men die too with the animal being blamed for it. Sadly as consequence!  Electrocution, poaching, hunting, accidents all are decimating the population of pachyderms in India. 

Wildlife encroaching upon the fields is not greed they are not especially fond of agricultural produce in the country of rapidly shrinking habitats it is a necessity an act of survival. Wildlife encroachment into human settlements is not an aberration or desire to kill it is simply trying to recover lost homelands or gain more space in order to survive. 

But unfortunately human fields and settlements are full stops the poor animals are incapable of understanding. Take the case of Asiatic Lion in India issues have stood in the way and they have not been trans-located to other grounds so far. This will certainly result in conflict in their present area and the predator will be put to blame. I hope better sense prevails!         

All this reeks of a bad land management for conservation output. Draw a straight line and excavate...projects take priority...the development imperative.  

Now this question should arise how much land should we vacate before we lose all our endangered species and endanger those that are not...but in time to come. Do we have a time bound solution? 

Encroachment into prime habitats is not a hidden factor it is right in the open and dispensations pay two hoots to it. But creating more PAs and increasing the dimensions of existing PAs is definitely the answer. Restricting agrarian practices, preventing commercialization and unchecked development is the answer! This cannot be done outright that is quite evident but a more circumstantial approach should in place. But who has the time and initiative? All we see is personal bickering in the media and formulation of policies only based on human welfare. There is hardly any thought accorded to environmental concerns and conservation. Just creating institutions and acts is not enough proper implementation and rationale has to be a proper ongoing activity which we expect from the people at helm. The people of India would like to witness more committed and sincere approach towards conservation and environmental concerns in totality.             

Under the Project Elephant the Government has issued directives to Elephant States to create barriers  (sic) and trackers will study the movement of these animals to minimize conflicts. Is this the root cause management? One way to minimize conflicts with animals living in our wilderness is to accord more space. Are we willing? To many the suggestion would appear as gross illogical. Where will the humans go?        

The World we live in reeks of human prerogative and prejudice other life forms are mere elements that evolved along with man but are now inconsequential. 

Who is to blame? 

Fairly and squarely humans are to be blamed...and the act most damaging has been unchecked population growth, which continues to grow. The development imperative may not necessarily have to be due to the population of India bursting over the seams. Every dispensation is interested in managing the countries huge population (Vote Bank) irrespective of ecological cost that the Nation has to bear. Population growth should be checked with full vigor. Then comes the development factor which is erroneously blamed on the massive population. This would have been there even if the population check was in picture. 

Look at some developed countries there is nothing left but this modern human assemblage. Have they stemmed the rot that is the environment imbalances? No! The climate change is effecting one and all and to worsen the unchecked fossil fuel consumption is nothing but disastrous. So we too emulate them!      

India differs from many other Nations in that our conservation ethos date back to thousands of years and the message is still intact. If we do not stem the rot there will be no places for wilderness in the country and the result is already warming thanks to the climate change which will take a noticeable toll in time to come.       

Uday works as naturalist at Kanha National Park.
He writes on conservation issues and wildlife.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Urban Wildlife: Love Thy Neighbours!

Not a single case of attack has been registered in Jabalpur that I know of? No leopard has attacked a man or killed one in Jabalpur, and yet they are shunned. These creatures have been living along side humans in not only Jabalpur but many other towns. They have always been our neighbours and have guarded and preserved our forests since eons.  

The problem has arisen from our actions. We are encroaching upon natural lands the few that are left. Large swathes of forests have been ravaged by the mafia, just have a look around the peripheries of your town. Nobody Questions?   

Long time back Jabalpur and neighboring districts of Mandla, Katni and Seoni Region were rich in forest canopy. Not any more, most of the wildlife in the reserve forests have been hunted long time back. The forests have been badly ravaged. Though some wild animals still survive but they do so in a precarious state...always at the mercy of humans in the surroundings. The axe is constantly upon the forests and threat from poachers is real. 
Leopard -
Tirath Singh

The regions mentioned above still harbor wildlife including muggers and occasional tigers. The forests are used for commercial gains and do not have a protected area status like our National Parks. 

In the subsequent race for development Jabalpur is not left alone. Highways, dams, increasing urbanization and industrial development all are silently crushing our green lungs...the valuable forests, and water sources that sustains our lives as well. Since ages I have seen the town lose ground giving it to urban development that is spreading its tentacles menacingly. 

We ....when we see roads and construction that is taking our cities to the next century we forget what price has been paid for all that. Has an alternative been looked at. Any mitigating measures taken? Was it necessary in the first place? 

No we do not look into all this...mesmerized we are by glossy hotels, gleaming malls, classic highways and sophisticated residential areas. 

Connectivity and placement at such high price could be redundant whence the paradigm changes! But the ecosystems that have been lost will never come back. Be assured!  

Cages have been set up by the forests department to capture and translocate leopards from their original home in the periphery of Jabalpur. This is ironical...the place where I live was frequented by tigers during Forsyth's his book the Highlands of Central India.

Why does the forest department act in such a manner? 

Answer is simple...It is public pressure and political infringement. 

Do we stand up and protest this step? Do we pressure the news bureaus to create a positive image of other life forms - carnivores or reptiles? 

Do we take pride in our neighbours?

We are the culprits. Do we accept their presence as loving neighbors and do away with this threat perception we have been harboring since ages?

No we do not, complacent with the material wealth and ever emerging luxuries we have forgotten nature at our doorstep let alone distant ecosystems.    

So many accidents happen but the cars are never banned...latest models are introduced. Then why ban the leopard? The human fatalities at the hand of this animal is much less than that by fast cars!    

Encroaching upon forest lands and then removing the leopards surviving in degraded habitats is unjustified. But who cares they are animals after all!  

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Tiger Conservation: The Assault Continues

Recent Tiger News!

The tiger at Balaghat was killed not by electrocution but by poisoning of the cattle kill it had made. The body was hacked to pieces after the poor animal was skinned and claws were carefully disjointed all meant to be sold later. This is not one or rare instance but oft repeated all over India. Sooner or later these culprits will be let off on bail. 

Male tigers whence they reach adulthood often have to look for vacant territories outside the protected areas and it is here that they are most vulnerable. Since the prey base is thin outside most of the PAs the predator resorts to cattle lifting thus raising the ire of the locals. 

In case of this tiger the cattle kill he made was left untended and hence easily poisoned. As per the NTCA guidelines such kills have to be taken in control by the department with immediate effect and the carcass removed from the vicinity. This is an effective mechanism to prevent poisoning of carcass under vengeance or malice. In this case the motive seems to be trafficking or for sales to local consumers.

Sold to whom?   

We blame the Chinese TCM but there are consumers within us! This horrific episode points towards it. Long time back I received a call from a lady politician from Gujarat who was seeking tiger claws to use as talisman for her sick mother. I made her understand that these beliefs are taking a heavy toll of endangered species and should be stopped not only for their ineffectiveness but also to conserve the dwindling numbers. It seemed difficult to make her understand so I disconnected.  

Albeit not in huge number animal parts in India are used for their supposed medicinal value. The uromastix is an open case and a decade back I have seen its oil extracted by boiling it live and being sold openly in a weekly bazaar in Jabalpur. Who cares!

The reliance on animals parts for medical consumption is more in the Orient where traditions looms large and research based scientific approach is comparatively low. 

The plant based medicine seems to be more effective as in case of Ayurveda but here also substantiated research is lacking. If the practice is threatening rare plants we do not know? If such plants/vegetative matters are used at all for medicinal purpose than their inclusion should be monitored and cultivation encouraged ravaging wild species will be detrimental conservation in our country.      

Some time back a tiger was electrocuted in buffer zone of Kanha National Park. The animal died a horrible death from the power of 11 KVA transmission lines that have become a death knell for wildlife in India. In this case too the culprits were let off within few months on bail. 

Though salient features are ingrained in the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 the complexities of law in India makes it difficult to negotiate a wildlife crime. The callous attitude towards these acts may be another reason for repeated violations since the punitive measures may not be discouraging enough. 

Do we sensitize our judiciary?

Well though there are judges and lawyers who understand the gravity of these crimes but this cannot be said of whole community. It is through voice and write ups we can sensitize not only the legal practitioners and the guardians of law we need to sensitize other administrative bodies as well. 

Whence it comes to wildlife offences the core focusing remains on the forest department which probably may have little executive powers as regarding such heinous acts.. The protection granted to wildlife in India is not purview of forest department in isolation, other administrative bodies like the police department should play a proactive and extremely supportive role. 

Tiger conservation or wildlife conservation in entity is a holistic exercise where in supportive role is required from many corners. Until unless this does not happen we will continue to lose endangered species in the country. Merely enacting laws will hardly deter the perpetrators of crime against the mute animals.   

Uday work as naturalist at Kanha National Park in India
He writes on conservation.