Thursday, May 20, 2010

Indian Wildlife - Dead encounters

As a child I was fascinated with the natural world. The birds and butterflies and some insects,  small  mammals and reptiles were part of our premises. Jackals, civet cats, fox and occasionally a Hyena or Leopard? would leave a tell tale sign in the night. These were my first introduction to nature. The house abounded  in wild trees  - left over remainders of forest that was taken over by early colonizers.

I grew up in natural environment in locality at a distance from Jabalpur in green suburbs. Narmada Road was then sparsely populated with greenery the hall mark and forest patches still intact in the surroundings. Urbanization had not taken place and few houses and couple of villages habituated the area. Jabalpur is situated in Central India or Madhya Pradesh.

My first sight of the Indian tiger was a dead one. It was shot by shikaris from Mumbai whence hunting was open. The license fee was perhaps  not more than hundred rupees for a tiger and less for other unfortunate mammals. The hunting blocks were all around Jabalpur.  The male tiger was shot at Nauradehi Wild Life Preserve in block called Amahpani. It was a piteous site, the animal was skinned right in front of us. Parts of its body including fat were eagerly picked up by locals for supposedly medicinal properties. I do not remember what happened to its claws. 

My first sighting of a leopard was a dead one. The leopard was shot few km away from our house by a local shikari who lived nearby. The Mumbai hunting party then fetched another leopard cub, shot by their Swiss guests on machaan ...mercilessly butchered with random bullet shots all over the body. Another vermin dead....

I once accompanied this hunting party whence we came across a doe at night in Mandla forest division. We were spared from the fright of gunfire and extreme guilt of killing an innocent animal. The shikari accompanying us on jeep was dead asleep, after an orgy of binge drinking and gluttony he was in no position to shoot. This was my first encounter with a spotted deer in the wild. The shikari slept with head leaning on the gun barrel...who cared.     

Then scores of animal arrived, sambar, chital, hare and what not...Mercifully all that organized hunting stopped whence legislation came into the effect.          

The neighborhood teemed with wild animals all around Jabalpur District also in Katni, Mandla and Sihora to name a few. All that is gone, some patches still hold small life and spotted deer which are entirely at mercy of humans. But in spite of the law, many influential people continued to shoot and the numbers began to decrease. Hunting by tribals and local hunters continued unabated as it happens often now. 

Subsequently large tract of forest became devoid of tigers, leopards and Indian wildlife. Jabalpur and its surrounding districts suffered heavy loss of wildlife and forest belts. In small numbers, deer and leopards still survive (perhaps tigers as well) but precariously since hunters still loom large. Most of the deer species have died out here but animals like wild boar still survive. These are the prime targets of illegal hunters and poachers now.

The diminutive beat guard is helpless figure over shadowed by Goonda and Political Raj. He is a witness to poaching and wood logging, the latter on daily basis. Who stops all this frankly.. I do not know...Pardon my ignorance.