Sunday, July 15, 2012

Saving The Tiger - Amitabh Bachaan

It is heartening to know that one of our star celebrities with massive following has joined hands to save the tiger. His involvement is an encouraging factor and with his persuasive power many an uninterested people will join in the foray. I was listening to the debate on TV and realized that his voice was more rationalistic than that of some of the erudite conservationists and conservationist speakers not necessarily present on the show.

In many years of my association with wilderness, I have realized that NGO's and activists too resort to populist measures. This may raise eyebrows, but I am perplexed myself as to why tourism is in focus all the time. Let me explain, I am visiting Kanha and Bandhavgarh National Parks since just whence tourism started.

In spite of rapid development of tourism in the boundaries and the tiger safaris in the park, the conservation methods have been immensely effective. The tiger population has grown and prey base has increased. The crown cover and the niche habitats have recovered as well. The massive awareness of our heritage wealth has been brought about by tourists visiting these reserves. Filmmakers and photographers have brought about International awareness about the wildlife and conservation hurdles in  India.

As far as controlling tourism goes, the authorities in tiger reserves of Central India have taken an appreciable measures. Tourism at Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench is being regulated effectively by the park authorities and the staff. Further study will certainly introduce more measure to reduce harmful effects if any. Employment to locals should be in priority basis. 

So how far does tourism pinch the conservation efforts?

There are issues as were being discussed on TV. One I heard very clearly was the large number of wildlife resorts on the periphery which are not viable. They have certainly blocked the movements of animals at places and have begun to host events that are not at all suitable near these forests meant for other life forms.

But these issues are not contributing to the decline of the tiger in India. The immediate concern is prevention of poaching. This threat is well realized since the incidents at Panna and Sariska. Tadobe Tiger Reserve has been in news lately of tiger poaching. This means an effective apparatus equipped with protection trained forces and an intelligence network that is proactive in nature. Most important is the will to act. Since years villages in the core areas have not been trans-located due to lack of funds, political interference and what not. Well Yes! Resorts and establishments obstructing the corridors should be included in this exercise.   

There is no mechanism which screens people concerned with conservation work before inducting them in this onerous task.  I have come across many an indolent lot without dedication and commitment. For such people park duty is more of a punishment posting. A hard working and committed staff at conservation units is a prerequisite for saving the tiger.

The regular reserved forests are being denuded almost all over the country. These where tiger habitats before hunting and land takeover began. Some of these forests are totally devoid of wildlife and subject to uncontrolled resource utilization. Many of these can be reconverted into habitats for animals like the tiger and the leopard.    

Disease prevalence becomes a big threat whence human incursion in wilderness increases. There have been cases of foot and mouth disease and rinderpest in such areas due to livestock. Man animal conflicts are taking serious toll of wildlife everywhere in the country.

With large number of people (who matter) participating in conservation efforts, things would work out better. There will be some succor for the beleaguered life forms neglected and persecuted by the dominant species - Man.