Monday, December 31, 2018

Brutalizing The Wild

The picture depicts how we treat our wild brethren and glorify our deeds. It also tells us that the World is a human dominated society where other life forms have no status. Well some of them have been labeled as endangered. 

At least mauling of charismatic animals in India is duly reported by enthusiastic writers and newsmen aiming for a victory reporting. 

The tigers and leopards are lucky because their demise is a matter of concern for those who are concerned thanks to reporting. The wolfs, jackals, deer, wild cats, antelopes, birds, insects, snakes all are dying but their demise is mired in silence. Forests are being ravaged unseen. We do not know when it will be too late. Perhaps there will be an alternative as humans are good at finding.      

The picture also depicts what most of the humans in India perceive of predators, and of course the benign species which are hardly ever reported dead. It tells us that humans that engage in this barbaric activity are illiterate and ignorant. Well not me! Some of them may be, but definitely they do not appear to be of elite class! But who did the decimation of tigers and other wild animals in India before the legislation? The burra sahibs - brown and white, the Maharajahs, nobels, all upper class and literate. Believe me if the legislation had not been in place these very elite now turned conservationists would have shot them all down.      

Those we see in the picture indulging in shameless revelry did not have the privilege to decimate our wild animals in the past. Are they making up for it? 

No they are just expressing extreme threat perception...and their ignorance of course. We have not taken up the cudgels to instill an iota of sympathy among them for these so called killer animals. The only thing they understand is what they see. A human gored by a leopard, man eaten by a tiger, child snatched by a wolf and what not. These are stray incidents that do happen and can be avoided with extra vigilance perhaps or better management. Why not? We are not short of wildlife managers or experts in this country who have proved their mettle.      

Why Not? 

Because we live in system which is only concerned with those with equity...purchasing power, voting muscle, wealth, clout and  all the desirable attributes that makes humans a big success.

Because we are overawed by the development mantra and sizzling scales of economy. We are indulging in luxury and comfort provided by things material. We do not care about the price we are paying for all that. We want more and more.... 

Politicians do not care for lifeforms with the missing attributes mentioned above. Bureaucrats those who do care are simply subdued by the lords and the system. We the people are busy with day to day life and many for amassing wealth and power, wilderness and nature do not come into picture or at the most a bit of concern. The conservationists, environmentalists and nature lovers...this fraternity  takes on all the load of the future to be. What happens when the ecosystems like tropical forests are inhabitable? What happens whence the rivers dry out as consequence? What happens whence global warming cannot be checked? The wild animals, nature all are inextricably linked with the habitable Earth. Well so many questions? 

Of major concern to me is, of the answer that we will have to give to the next of nextgen....or it may be imminent. For our lethargy, greed and neglect of the wilderness a heavy price will have to be paid. And the bells have started tolling already!         

Uday works as Naturalist Guide
Mobile: 9755089323

Monday, December 24, 2018

Use of Animal Parts in Medicine


I remember whence in the days before legislation I saw my first tiger, it was a dead one, killed at Noradehi WLS in Madhya Pradesh near Jabalpur. The body was lying in front of my porch and a cobbler was skinning the poor predator stripped off all his glory and off his precious fat. The fat, the cobbler told me will be used to stem arthritis pain (sic).

Nevertheless I do not hear much about medicines made from animal parts in India, but the practice still lingers albeit in small quarters. In India thankfully, Ayurveda is popular and it stresses on vegetative matter - herbs, shrubs, trees, fruits, roots, leaves and barks and minerals to be used as medicine. This probably weans us away from medicine made from wild animals to a good extent.  However people still possess big cat claws in India as talisman or a matter of pride. This practice though illegal still persists clandestinely it has to be discouraged.   

Chinese System of Medicine

The scourge emanates from the TCM systems widespread and prevailing since ages. There are number of animal farms in China making medicine from tigers and rhinos to name a few. Although the country stresses on strict regulatory practice to curb use of wild animals the system of medicine is so overcoming that the country is a threat to wild animals especially tigers all over the globe. 

TCM has predated heavily on rhinos and tigers across the globe and is responsible for their endangered status. In India the threat is at high level with organised poachers using safe conduits or porous borders to smuggle tiger bones to in demand areas like China. Ironically the effectiveness of animal medicines usually consumed through culinary medium, powders and liquids has not been proven at all. Hence it is the responsibility of countries of consuming populace to stem the rot through legal means and awareness programs.  

To better understand the prevalence of such practices one needs to study the cultural ethos of that country. However chauvinistic this may sound many countries in the World have no regard for wilderness and do not practice conservation but rather allow the decimation of wild species within their borders. Many countries just pay lip service to conservation many do not care at all.    

Greatest impact accrues from the TCM where a large number of animal parts are smuggled illegally from all over the World. The policy of control in China is impractical and vacillates the country is not at all serious about the havoc TCM is causing rather there are proponents that favor it.  This erratic healing practices is having a negative impact of large number of species including dogs, snakes, pangolin, bears, tigers, rhinos, deer, antelope, seahorses, sharks....there is a long list which informs us of the number of species that is being exterminated by this ancient healing practice. 

Other Animals Victimized

Bear in Vietnam and China are imprisoned and their bile extracted for medicinal purposes. This is illegal but the trade is carried out clandestinely.    

Elephant tusks are used for creating artifacts in Japan & China and as traditional medicine in China and many other parts of the Worlds. A large number of pachyderms in Africa and Asia are under severe threat due to this practice.   

Musk Deer the liquid exuded from musk deer scent pods is used in perfumery but this animal parts are also used in TCM. 

Pangolin are extensively used in TCM for various medicinal preparation. The species is on verge of extinction and may not survive more than few decades. 

Medicinal Practices Using Wild Animals 

This practice is widespread prevalent including in India but unlike TCM the impact is local and subject to legal action if discovered. Incredible number of life forms are subjected to torture and killing for their parts having medicinal value which is usually not verified.  Most of the practices are now losing ground since the restrictions and unavailability are discouraging. 

Organized poaching is resulting in extermination of many species on Earth and the maximum blame is accorded to TCM. 

Friday, December 21, 2018

Kids For Tigers A Conservation Initiative

Catch them young! 

Kids for Tigers Sanctuary Asia

The program aims at creating awareness and love for nature amongst the growing children in a holistic manner with the critically endangered tiger in focus. In an ambience stifled by disastrous policies and equally disastrous road map for development it is crucial to give birth to future statesmen, bureaucrats, politicians, opinion makers and all else who will govern this country in time to come and shape policies that would preserve, regulate and enhance environmental aspects favourably. This conservation initiative is a commendable effort by Sanctuary Asia and editor/publisher (conservationist) Bittu Sahgal.
India today is at crossroad entangled by issues that will have a pronounced futuristic impact on our environment. Lethargy, ineptitude, clear cut disregard and a hasty and unplanned approach to development that does not seem to be India specific is having a telling effect. 

The present generation's attitude is by all means rapacious where in the greed, urgent populist developmental approach would destroy our natural lands and rivers further - the crucial sources of fresh air, clean water and healthy food.    

Human Centric Approach - Absolute Disregard for Nature or Other Life Forms

Conservation today is a crusade to save whatever remains. It is not a one up mechanism or anti-establishment or an elitist ideologue - it is a practical approach as to how we shape our Earth by our activities.   

In the contemporary era we have ravaged forests, occupied grasslands, damaged desert ecology, junked mountains and streams, and the dismal state of our rivers is not hidden by any means. A large number of species have become extinct and equally large number of species are facing imminent extinction. The fossil fuels are eroding our protective outer layers and Co2 emissions are sounding the death knell. 

Why Bother?

Well if climate change does not augur an alarm then further degradation will be bound to have a greater impact on our lives - negative. Our coming generations will pay the price since negative environmental impact has not been instantaneous to cause an alarm. Nature fights back to equalise and hence the impact of wrongdoings may be excruciatingly slow due to the tug of war. This deceives us into thinking that all we are doing is right.         

In an overpopulated country like India aiming to be a leader in economic pursuits the pressure on natural resources is very much evident.  Over the graveyards of our ecosystems we are building four lane highways, ever expanding settlements, airports, malls, factories, recreational centers etc and all at reckless speed.

We want to create a grandeur that far outdoes cities in the developed World.  In the process we fail to realise the environmental havoc we are giving birth to, we fail to realize the sudden upsurge of deadly and crippling diseases, rise of disabilities and an overall increase in mortality due to negative environmental factors that we have created in the rush. We fail to realize the social and economic disparities, religious extremism, rising crime and deadly violence because we have moved away from nature. All we see is the materialistic elements around us and we wish for more and more, the hunger will never be satiated.         

Much in need for circumspection, the path to development is raking havoc as forests are being dissected for highways, pathways and whatnot.  The rivers are facing unprecedented pollution from industrial effluents and mega dams, linking, and diversions that could inundate crucial ecosystems, endanger vulnerable species that are unable to withstand the unnatural ecological impacts. Our mining activities are nothing but disastrous as large chunks of land go infertile and  completely ravaged. Our industrial belts are spewing venom unchecked and the expanding urbanity is engulfing remaining wilderness. We have moved away from the Vedas! 

All this negativity requires thought, sincerity and planning before we rush into things. And if we adults have failed  or overpowered by short sight or greed the disaster awaits. 

The kids for tigers program tends to shape vision among the young with its recreational educational outreach to inculcate better values and sensitise the coming generation about nature. Hundreds of schools have participated in this program through film shows, lectures, audio visuals and nature outings etc. This is a wonderful outreach for making a better tomorrow for India and its tigers which are a dependent upon us to preserve their ecosystems .   

I have conducted slide shows/lectures in over forty schools and the enthusiasm among the children and school teachers has been palpable and encouraging.   

FaceBook Page of Kids for Tigers 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Breeding Tigers!

Guests Colin & Lynn & Family : Angela UK
Courtyard House Kanha

Banno Cubs!
Tiger - Uday Patel 

Reaching the spot where we missed seeing two tiger cubs a day before was again a disappointment. But I had decided to keep the spot under the scanner. So as always happens we began exploring the nearby area for the tiger that frequents. The male tiger was nowhere and we moved back again there was no sign of the cubs....disappointment. Have they moved away as predators always do...   

Tracking tigers is a game of patience, logical thinking, and it tests your skills using the sensory apparatus. We were waiting at the nearest cross road since all the jeeps had exhausted their search for the cubs at that spot and there was no hope. The waiting made me think. Yesterday whence we had missed the cubs there was no sign of the mother. Today also she was untraceable...that meant she was probably out hunting as six months old tigers could have a voracious appetite. So I began speaking to the guide explaining him that since the mother was not around for two days the cubs would probably be there hidden in the bushes at the same spot.  A questioning look on his countenance made me speak further. 

"The cubs would not move without their mother or until unless she calls them." I said.

This was unlikely to have happened. So I decided to to station our jeep near the spot and not at the crossroad planning for a search elsewhere. As we were reversing...on the rock sitting silently was a tiger cub staring curiously right at me the jeeps having gone it felt reassured to savor the warmth of the rock heated by the emerging sun. It had rained the previous night and hovering clouds made the matter worse. 

"Back," I shouted." 

The cub kept on looking at us curious and bit surprised. He changed his stance and angle to have a good look at us. Oh! "Mother never told of this weird animal!"  

My guests could photograph it well before the arrival of the second jeep pushed it back into the rocky bush never to emerge.        

This tigress had two cubs aged six months. Banno is one of the shyest animal in the park, and I have been spotting her paw prints since last two years but could never see her.   

Breeding Tigers 

Kanha National Park has provided excellent breeding ground for the big cats...but in my years of searching for tigers I have always found the cubs within the periphery of  the core zone. A core zone in the protected area of tiger reserve is devoid of human settlements, agrarian activities and trespasse. 

In this area only the staff are allowed to reside while tourists maneuver in twenty percent of the area and exit whence the time is over. This means there is little disturbance to breeding tigers from activities of people. Surprisingly they have immense toleration for jeeps...probably they consider it  as another animal, and in time to come after frequent encounters...harmless.     

While rearing cubs the mother has to move the family frequently albeit in the territory controlled by the male whom she has mated with. Though her territory is usually small there is ample space for moving cubs time to time to keep them safe. 

Tigress With Cub Courtesy Navneet Maheshwari

In the core zone the prey base is very high and within reach. The growing cubs have to be fed frequently and the mother has to eat to frequently too. A low prey base would definitely affect the breeding.  In fact tigers breed corresponding to the available prey base. 

Discounting internal mortality between the specie due to conflicts, predation of cubs, and breeding prerogative amongst the strongest, the survival rate is very high and at times it can be hundred percent. This has been seen in the tourism area since rest of the core is out of bounds for the public.   

Buffer Zone 

All this is not possible within the buffer zone of a protected area as human settlements, agriculture and commercial activities abound. Though tigers live here too, but they are there because of territorial implications. Breeding if any is surely limited.      

Big males frequent the area as some of them prefer livestock that offers more meat per kill. Females frequent areas adjoining to the core but their presence is very weak as I have noted. Creating buffer zone for tourism is a good step as it will accord additional area for the big cat movement in time to come. Unfortunately live stock still plunder the buffer tourism areas and there is distinct shortage of water. For the fear of poisoning by habitual poachers water holes or saucers are not created. Hence the prey base is extremely thin because of the dry terrain, water shortage, livestock grazing and frequent human movement on foot and vehicles. 

Ironically in order to sustain tourism in buffer zone they will have to be turned practically like the core zone. Only then the big cats will move and breed in the buffer favoring tourism as well. Till then the core will sustain breeding populations, but the extra space required for increasing population in the protected areas is a dim possibility with buffer being just a namesake.