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