Google+ Badge

Monday, May 31, 2010

Bengal Tiger: Of reasoning and solutions

The Jhurjura tigress...a tragic event has once again highlighted the plight of tigers in India. It has also brought to surface how event centric we are and how we fail to take preemptive and proactive action. We believe in reasoning for rational approach and too much at times. Paradoxically whence circumspect evidence is right at our door step we perform the worst. We believe in burying our heads in the sand and hope the rot stems on its own. 

As a mature democracy we show our concerns in debates, discussions, forums and public platforms. - thankfully there is a voice.  The rot continues as intellectual pursuit to ensuing problem intensifies. The answer is not always found, especially in case of ultra revolutionary, antidemocratic and anti national contingencies that of late has become day to day phenomena. 

Declining tiger population is akin to state of emergency, it highlights lack of efficacy and incompetence of Governments and administrative setups in the country. It also highlights one basic fact, how localized democratic urgency dominates the whole scenario in India. If the tiger could vote or if it helped brew the local wine, its persecution could not have taken place so mercilessly.  Tiger poaching is an anti national activity -  the animal is our pride and priceless inheritance.             

We are simply unable to take timely proactive or preemptive actions as is evident from our handling of nefarious activities in our surroundings. We lack the will to go for offensive in order to defend. In case of tiger reserves certain communities (e.g.Bel Pardhi) are more inclined to poaching along side network of seasoned criminals, regular poachers and underground traders. Much more can be done to bring these people to boot as they  leave footprints (evidence) whence involved in nefarious activity. Use of snares and electric wires is increasing as means of killing big cats. How the poachers can lay traps without being caught even once is alarming. 

I have seen at Pench, tiger, bear and bison were electrocuted repeatedly at one spot barely  2 km from Karmajhiri R.H. It is reported that snares are being used in Kanha and Satpura tiger reserves. This could be  happening in all protected areas in Central India.  

The cause of the rot is well known, we all know how and why of the decline of tigers and other endangered species in India. Man animal conflicts, peripheral discontents, encroachment, wood logging are quagmire of issues that the tiger heavens face. But the worst is unchecked poaching that continues in one form or other. The impunity with which tigers in Sariska and Panna were poached is astounding. The failure can best be ascribed to: "Nero fiddled while Rome burned".           

Not exactly! But while the tigers were being poached in one of our Nation's best protected wildlife havens the administration was right there from top to bottom. And not a blotch on their deliverance of duty. Until after! After much explanatory response and counter responsive the revelation of ghastly  truth.  I am not here to blame individual lethargy and incompetence. This article lays emphasis on exposing the inability of our system to deal effectively with contingencies that arise from within. Particularly the case of vanishing tigers. This is of utmost urgency. The anomalies in systemic governance pertaining  to wildlife protection should be rectified with electric cadence. 

If a neighboring country elements can effectively fulfill demand for tiger bones by using elements from within  India by exploiting the system...How safe we are in all spheres of life?

It all bores down to the fact that machinery responsible to check and discourage poaching in our tiger reserves is ineffective - due to systemic inefficiency or loop holes. There is no intelligence gathering  up to the scale, whatever is there, it has bore no fruits.   

I know that physically guarding such large sensitive territories is not easy..but than is it so immensely difficult that we loose all the tigers in short period. The most important element in preventing poaching is the beat guard and unfortunately he is the weakest element...prone to intimidation and corruption.  Teams  of trained armed guards well versed in matters of conservation and familiar with wildlife are a must. Similarly  professional wildlife manager's trained to the task are a prerequisite. Devoid of political interference the administration should be hell bent upon protecting the area. Discouragement comes from punitive action which so far has been a big farce in and around our tiger reserves.

Of late some steps have been taken or proposed but then how effective they are time will tell. The tiger's plight depends upon implementation of correct policies with a strong will that puts them in force.             

Monday, May 24, 2010

Jhurjura tigress tragic loss

I read in papers and on FaceBook the ghastly incident that occurred in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve few days a go. Following the incident keenly I realized that what is a National tragedy will soon be forgotten. The loss would get mired in administrative unaccountability and legal loop holes which will play their part if some substantiated findings are reached.

Jhurjura tigress is one of the many big cats that have died unnaturally before their prime. This is not only the loss of an endangered species it is indicative of care and regards that we have for other life forms.

What exactly happened?

The facts are yet to come out was it arrogant reckless driving, which I have been experiencing often since number of years?

Was it deliberate murder?

Or accident?

Let us hope that we are soon enlightened of the facts. But what next? Will the incident fall in the same vein as Panna and Sariska and forgotten or setting up of a new order pacify us.? Will few heads rise and see that the incident is not forgotten till suitable corrective action ensues in order to prevent repeat?

This is the best chance to see how we regard our National Pride. This country as whole should react to this incident.

Any way whatever happened could have been prevented. The death is a testimony to the fact that more needs to be done in order to make tourism safer and fruitful in our tiger reserves.

Reckless driving is one issue that needs to be permanently checked. The rush to reach the tiger is what increases speed. There are few parameters that can effectively check speeding vehicles. One good suggestion is to build as many speed breakers as possible. The second is for the staff to check and take necessary action. The latter is what that will be done. Ironically we demand that the staff act as sentinels to check wildlife crimes but here they will be checking us. A waste of crucial man power. 

It is not responsible tourism alone that will work it is responsible tourist that is the order of the day. How we behave as National entity is suggestive of our character and strength.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Indian Wildlife - Dead encounters

As a child I was fascinated with the natural world. The birds and butterflies and some insects,  small  mammals and reptiles were part of our premises. Jackals, civet cats, fox and occasionally a Hyena or Leopard? would leave a tell tale sign in the night. These were my first introduction to nature. The house abounded  in wild trees  - left over remainders of forest that was taken over by early colonizers.

I grew up in natural environment in locality at a distance from Jabalpur in green suburbs. Narmada Road was then sparsely populated with greenery the hall mark and forest patches still intact in the surroundings. Urbanization had not taken place and few houses and couple of villages habituated the area. Jabalpur is situated in Central India or Madhya Pradesh.

My first sight of the Indian tiger was a dead one. It was shot by shikaris from Mumbai whence hunting was open. The license fee was perhaps  not more than hundred rupees for a tiger and less for other unfortunate mammals. The hunting blocks were all around Jabalpur.  The male tiger was shot at Nauradehi Wild Life Preserve in block called Amahpani. It was a piteous site, the animal was skinned right in front of us. Parts of its body including fat were eagerly picked up by locals for supposedly medicinal properties. I do not remember what happened to its claws. 

My first sighting of a leopard was a dead one. The leopard was shot few km away from our house by a local shikari who lived nearby. The Mumbai hunting party then fetched another leopard cub, shot by their Swiss guests on machaan ...mercilessly butchered with random bullet shots all over the body. Another vermin dead....

I once accompanied this hunting party whence we came across a doe at night in Mandla forest division. We were spared from the fright of gunfire and extreme guilt of killing an innocent animal. The shikari accompanying us on jeep was dead asleep, after an orgy of binge drinking and gluttony he was in no position to shoot. This was my first encounter with a spotted deer in the wild. The shikari slept with head leaning on the gun barrel...who cared.     

Then scores of animal arrived, sambar, chital, hare and what not...Mercifully all that organized hunting stopped whence legislation came into the effect.          

The neighborhood teemed with wild animals all around Jabalpur District also in Katni, Mandla and Sihora to name a few. All that is gone, some patches still hold small life and spotted deer which are entirely at mercy of humans. But in spite of the law, many influential people continued to shoot and the numbers began to decrease. Hunting by tribals and local hunters continued unabated as it happens often now. 

Subsequently large tract of forest became devoid of tigers, leopards and Indian wildlife. Jabalpur and its surrounding districts suffered heavy loss of wildlife and forest belts. In small numbers, deer and leopards still survive (perhaps tigers as well) but precariously since hunters still loom large. Most of the deer species have died out here but animals like wild boar still survive. These are the prime targets of illegal hunters and poachers now.

The diminutive beat guard is helpless figure over shadowed by Goonda and Political Raj. He is a witness to poaching and wood logging, the latter on daily basis. Who stops all this frankly.. I do not know...Pardon my ignorance.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lost tigers of Nauradehi

Sanctuary 

Nauradehi or Noradehi WLS lies in Sagar, Damoh & Narsignhpur Districts in Vindhya Hills with affinity to Narmada Valley dry deciduous forest. The forest are Southern tropical dry deciduous mix type. The approach to the sanctuary is from Jabalpur, Sagar and Damoh in MP. The Jabalpur Sagar Highway goes through the WLS and is a great source of disturbance to wildlife.

Nauradehi was declared a wildlife sanctuary in the year 1977 and encompasses an area of 1187 sq.km. It is among one of the largest sanctuaries in India. The sanctuary is home to many mammals that suggests good prey base for the  carnivores. The wolf is the prime predator while few tigers and leopards are living in this WLS. 

Villages - Relocation

None of the villages have been shifted so far but relocation plans are in process. There are some difficulties being faced by the administration one of them is the need of requisite funds from the State Government.   There is an urgent need to shift villages to areas out of the sanctuary but the enormity of the tasks is obvious.  The expanding villages and urbanization of life style has put all our forests under pressure.

Animals - Tigers

Nauradehi and surrounding forests were once high density tiger heavens. One could come across tigers on all approach roads to Sagar, Damoh and Narsinghpur. The forest that constitute Noradehi WLS are the best tiger habitats but the big cat lost ground during the British Raj and the time whence hunting was open in Independent India. The forest have suffered habitat degradation in the past and most of the trees I could see are young. But great care is being taken to fetch the earlier status. The sanctuary contains excellent niches that support the large mammal base and many crocodiles. No wonder the Cheetah Relocation Project plans to initiate the program here. 

The keystone specie presently is the Indian wolf which on my subsequent visits I could not see but it is frequently seen by many others..  The reserve is home to Chinkara and Black Buck the latter confined to forest area in Damoh district. Nilgais are conspicuous by their relative abundance, spotted deer and sambar deer can be seen occasionally in day time. The sanctuary is home to fresh water crocodiles and smooth otters seen on the banks of the river especially at crocodile point.  Many species of small mammals, reptiles and insect are waiting to be discovered. The sanctuary is home to sloth bear as well.

Birds

I could checklist more than eighty resident species here and am waiting to come across spotted grey creeper. Raptors to appear to be abundant. Nauradehi is one of the few pockets where white backed vulture survives and breeds. King vulture and Egyptian vulture are often seen and the habitat is suggestive of the presence of  long billed vulture as well.  I saw a juvenile at Cheola Lake and an adult in flight.  The region around Cheola Lake is best for wildlife safaris and birding.  The water body is home to interesting wetland birds and one can see  resident whistling teal, little grebe, painted storks, lesser adjutant storks, gray heron and many more.          

Tourism

The WLS has tremendous scope for wildlife watching and birding tours in India. Like all preserves there is a criss cross of  motor able jungle roads in the sanctuary. A guide can be arranged at Mohali forest rest house. It would be advisable to take assistance from the DFO who sits at Sagar.   

Tourism is in the nascent stage and very few tourists visit the sanctuary. But the place has great tourism potential as the eco region and keystone mammalian species seen are much different from Kanha, Bandhavgarh National Park and Pench tiger reserves in MP.

The people behind the management and the local forest staff are committed to conservation. The  conservation measures will increase wildlife in coming years and improve the habitat further. The tigers and leopards will flourish once again.         

For more information on wildlife safaris and birding at Noradehi please contact The Penthouse. Privately owned hotel accommodation The Penthouse in Jabalpur organizes package tours for birding and safaris at Noradehi. 

Winters up to March is the best time to be at this WLS in Madhya Pradesh in India. But summertime is good for resident birdas well as wildlife wtaching which gathers around the few water holes with enough supply. Rani Durgavati Wildlife Sanctuary is about fifty km from Noradehi.