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.