Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Tiger Conservation and Locals - PAs - A Paradigm Shift!

On popular platforms some expert writers, advocates, blogger and NGOs time and again suggest vociferously the greater involvement of the local communities in the conservation of our precious ecosystems i.e those remaining. Ironically what they mean is do away with the protected area system...that has successfully shaped conservation in India, and brought many species out of extinction. Little do they know that the local communities on many instances have unintentionally damaged the natural lands and have brought many species on to the brink of extinction. Our small tiger reserves are a shameful example of land shrunken drastically due exploitation of forests by ever growing population of humans and subsequent denudation.

Swamp Deer

The threat perception is real and their (authors/advocates) understanding of species survival is at best limited, and they have no cognition of critical habitats and or protected areas that should and must remain inviolate. 

We need thinkers, policymakers and activists who understand the predicament that other life forms are facing in this human centric World. Conservation management is scientific, bound by rationale and not by emotions and in the present context certainly not by human history. 

PA concept is not at all elitist or discriminatory as many would advocate, it is based on scientific rationale and most important it provides succor to other life forms, and does away with omnipresent human footsteps considering the massive population bulge we have in this country. The sore point for some is that it facilitates tourism which many consider as elitist without giving a thought to conservation impetus it creates among the masses and the revenue and much needed employment it generates among the locals. In years of its popularity the ecosystems have benefited by regulated tourism and should now be an issue of least concern.   

The forests for example were always pristine and literally inviolate since the population span was contained in the centuries gone past. Not so in the contemporary times whence the population span has expanded beyond means and hardly any space for the survival of species is left inviolate. If this had not been the case the concept of protected area would have not come into the picture at all. The PAs are certainly required now and delimiting would prove to be disastrous especially in the case of animals like the swamp deer and the tiger.     

Well to be honest not only the locals, many of us irrespective of the location of domain have contributed to extensive damage to our ecosystems. The locals have contributed their share of destruction by tilling few remaining natural lands and creating immense biotic pressure through the live stock rearing in an unscientific manner. There involvement in poaching though not on large scale cannot be negated either. This is certainly not a spirit of coexistence a favourite phrase used by the enlightened who consider local communities as still living in a stone age. The local communities have undergone a paradigm shift during this century and look forward to be a part  of the mainstream.  The next gen is certainly headed for the urban surroundings as no suitable or alternative source of income exists for the erudite in the remote surroundings. 

The NGOs or some of these writers/researchers have conjectured a picture of tribal in their minds of static, lifeless, assemblage of flesh and bones, who will remain fixed to a time long gone past and be immobile for ever. The local communities are evolving too and need to assimilate the way whole country is doing. They do not wish to remain stuck in the past living in isolation.  They do not wish to be pushed deeper into the inaccessible wild realms with no infrastructure and modern facilities.

Tribal - Neeraj Vegad
Most of those who write on this subject have no understanding of issues pertaining to conservation as a holistic model and are keen to provide a panacea through their emotional tag lines. Many of those who understand this issue are bound by their own emotions which ends up restricting their perspective and miss the imperative.  They are not aware of conservation practises being pursued by the wildlife managers and they certainly do not know about scientific approach that lies behind the involvement of local communities in and around our tiger reserves to be more precise. Just the flair for writing is not enough a writer should have an in depth understanding of the topic before holding the pen.  

We have to understand that conservation in our country has two facets, one is the human conundrum which now includes the indigenous communities, and second are the ecosystems and wildlife within. We are ruthless whence wilderness creeps into our urbanity but wish to share a large chunk of ecosystems belonging to other life forms. Hence the two are now separate entities and the spirit of coexistence is limited to live and let live principle. Coexistence cannot take place by sharing the tiger reserves or National Parks with local communities. These ecosystems will remain inviolate and strictly. On the contrary more inviolate space will have to be allocated especially for conservation of endangered animals like the tiger, Asiatic Lion, swamp deer and more.   

Till so called experts do not accept the separation of the two entities mentioned above, the fate of the big cats and the tribal will remain precarious.
Uday works as a naturalist and loves to blog on conservation.
He can be contacted at: 

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