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.