Thursday, March 31, 2011

India's Latest Tiger Census Shows Increase in the Nation's Population

A tiger in Ranthambore National Park

Recently, a census in monitoring India's tigers has shown that the population has increased by 225 animals since 2007. The government estimates that the tiger population has increased to 1,636 from 1,411 animals in 2007. The results were released at a two-day International Tiger Conservation Conference, which is being held in New Delhi. This conference is hosted by the government, and is being held in collaboration with the Global Tiger Forum and the Global Tiger Initiative. Participants included leaders from all thirteen Asian tiger range countries, scientists, and conservation organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and the Wildlife Trust of India. At its opening, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh stated that an estimated thirty percent of the population is outside India's 39 tiger reserves. He further added that there is a considerable rise in tiger population in the South India, where the state of Karnataka holds the highest figure of 320 tigers. The count was conducted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) with key NGOs in the nation's largest tiger conservation survey ever undertaken. According to Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid, India was a late comer to the industrial revolution compared to western nations. He further added, saying that development and environment will have to work together in order to ensure the tiger's future.

Other members expressed their hopes at the results. These included Jim Leape, International Director General for WWF, and Azzedine Downes, IFAW's executive vice president. At the same time, they presented their ideas on how to make a successful recovery. Mike Baltzer of WWF's Tigers Alive Initiative proclaimed that strong protection of core tiger areas and areas that link them should be strongly protected, as well as proper and effective management in surrounding areas. One particular person who is on the front lines in the tiger conservation is Vivek Menon, Wildlife Trust of India's executive director and IFAW's regional director in South Asia. He stated that he and his organization has provided training to more than 8500 frontline staff, and their field officers played a crucial role in securing tiger habitats by granting them protected area status.

I'm very happy to see that the tiger population in India has increased fairly exponentially over these past four years. However, that is not to say that it is always a good news for both the people and wildlife. Based on what Minister Ramesh stated upon receiving the census' results, there may be tigers thriving in areas that may not be protected. This is could also mean there are village communities whose residents are vulnerable to the danger of tiger attacks. This would deeply affect the global project in bringing the species back from the brink of extinction, as people would resort to have problematic animals killed which would change the course of population growth. That is why, as put by Minister Khurshid, both environment and development must work together as part of the goal in doubling the tiger population by 2022. If one dominates over another, the consequences will be disastrous.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Michigan's Gray Wolves Endangered by Shortage of Females

Wolf pack

A recent report by the Michigan Tech University has shown that the gray wolf population in the state's Isle Royale National Park has plummeted drastically to sixteen animals over the past year. This sudden plunge in population is nothing new to an island national park, which sits in the middle of the mighty Lake Superior. Since 1998, Isle Royale's wolf population had hit its lowest to fourteen animals due to a major food shortage of their favorite prey: moose. Ten years earlier, a parvovirus epidemic decimated the population to twelve after it reached its peak to fifty animals in the early 1980s. However, during those times, the wolf population always bounced back since their ancestors had migrated across an ice bridge from Canada more than sixty years ago and producing new generations which defied the odds of harsh climate and geographic isolation. But this time, the animals are facing a new threat which scientists predict could cause a possible extinction: shortage of female wolves. A recent genetic analysis has shown that of the sixteen remaining, just one or two are adult females. According to John Vucetich, a wildlife biologist for Michigan Tech, the loss of two female wolves would definitely signal the end to Isle Royale's wolves once and for all. This crisis has even drawn up question that has been debated for several years: whether to bring more wolves from the mainland. Mr. Vucetich and his colleague Rolf Peterson believe that time has come to consider this idea more seriously after a recent recovery in the late 1990s. At that time, a male wolf crossed to the island from Canada and sired 34 offspring which reinvigorated the gene pool. More than half of the genes in Isle Royale's wolves trace back to this alpha male.

I feel that the current wolf population in Isle Royale is in a great need of help, and the best way would be to introduce more wolves from the mainland. At the same time, I personally believe that it is important to first think about where specifically to find wolves in the mainland to bring them to Isle Royale. The reason is because majority of wolves in North America are divided into subspecies, and they all differ based on appearance and location. For example, wolves which live in and around the famed Yellowstone National Park inhabit north of the Rocky Mountains. Hence, they are called Northern Rocky Mountains wolves. The ones that live on Isle Royale are known as Great Plains wolves. Their range covers majority of the Great Lakes region in U.S and Canada, with populations in the neighboring states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. I believe the best solution would be to look around this region, in order to help reboost Isle Royale's population. This would be beneficial both for the wolves and people. That is, not only would it save the national park's tourist industry but also the region's livestock industries to some extent. Right now, I feel it is best for Isle Royale's staff to limit the flow of tourism in the park since wolf numbers are critically low and that increase in tourism would lead to increase pressure on the animals' lives thus pushing them faster to the brink of extinction.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kiev Zoo- A Wild Gulag in the Former Soviet Union

Boy, a 39-year-old Indian elephant lies dead in Ukraine's Kiev Zoo

Zoos have always been a favorite destination for people for generations. Instead of traveling to remote corners of the world, most people choose to visit zoos to see various species of exotic animals. Some of these facilities have gained popularity for their size and layout. Among them include the San Diego Zoo, which is also famous for its conservation programs in saving endangered species such as the California Condor and the Arabian oryx. But although the San Diego Zoo is prized for its role in the global conservation of endangered animals, it shares one characteristic in common with other facilities: many wild animals are deprived of their freedom. Some zoos in this world have become more than just places of solitary confinement for animals. They tend to have conditions so poor, that animals are subjected to a great deal of neglect and abuse. Conditions vary from cramped spaces, to inadequate food and water. One particular zoo that gained such a notoriety in recent years was Ukraine's Kiev Zoo.

Since its establishment in 1908, the Kiev Zoo had a history of hardships but gradually began to prosper after the difficult periods of the Russian Revolution and World War II. In 1996, it was admitted to the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. However, the zoo was stripped of this prestigious status in 2007 over poor conditions and mistreatment of animals. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the zoo had been pushed into poverty as animals were kept in cramped conditions, fed improperly, and left unattended. One of the unfortunate victims was a female brown bear named Dinara. She was moved from her old cramped enclosure to a larger pen, which turned out to be occupied by a male Malaysian sun bear. This led to Dinara being stressed so much, that she repeatedly banged her head against the concrete walls and leaving trails of blood. She was then euthanized. Others included Boy, a 39-year-old Indian elephant, who was found dead inside his enclosure in April. It had been initially claimed that he was poisoned, but the autopsy was inconclusive.

A month later, a camel named Maya died as a result of abdominal bloating after a sudden diet change. Her death was blamed on a middle-aged man who resembled Serhiy Hryhoryev, one of the zoo's workers. Theo, a zebra was separated from other female zebras and died in late March due to stress seen while throwing himself into a metal fence to reach them. According to the zoo's new director Oleksiy Tolstoukhov, about a quarter of animals have died and another quarter disappeared after the old director Svitlana Berzina was ousted in October. He further added that the zoo's problems grew more worse under the leadership of mayor Leonid Chernovetsky, who has been accused for mismanagement. In addition to that, a government audit found that thousands of dollars were misspent as animals were illegally sold and funds for their food and care disappeared. Prosecutors have even opened an investigation on the zoo.

The news report really gives a clear picture of what dark secrets are hidden behind various zoological facilities. Wild animals are not only deprived of their freedom, but are also victims of abuse and cruelty which leads to deaths in countless numbers. I was deeply shocked and outraged at various examples of these forms of cruelty towards animals. Many were kept in cramped conditions, they were unattended, and were never given a balanced diet. Some like the zebra named Theo was kept separated from other zebras, which led to him feeling deeply stressed and eventually dying as a result of this behavior. This goes to show that the caretakers of the zoo have failed to understand their animals' needs. Other violations included purchasing medications for apes that had already perished, and even an illegal sale of twelve macaque monkeys. The report even stated that even with new managers, the zoo's animals continue to die. I personally feel that the remaining animals are in a great need of help, and need to be relocated to rehabilitation centers. As of now, the Kiev Zoo has become a living death camp for wild animals and unless they are rescued, the zoo will be out of business.

View article here   

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Local Village Communities to Help Protect Great Indian Bustards

Great Indian Bustards

It has been recently reported that village communities will be involved in the process of making policies in a conservation plan to save great Indian bustards. On the 21st of March, the forest department of Pune and the Great Indian Bustard Foundation will hold meetings with local villagers. They will also hold workshops with the forest staff on the conservation of these magnificent birds in the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary located in Maharashtra's Solapur District. One of the key figures in this conservation plan is Pramod Patil, director of the Great Indian Bustard Foundation, who is preparing a state emergency plan draft with the forest department. This draft consists of changes and additions, which will be made after feedback from the villagers and forest guards. It will be reviewed by the Bombay Natural History Society, and sent to the Ministry of Environment and Forests for appeal. According to Mr. Patil, the implementation will take place at state level. He also added that local participation is often neglected. That is, the villagers fear that they will have to be relocated. However, Mr. Patil assured that he and others will dismiss such rumors, saying that this has to be a community-based conservation. And during the meetings held on March 21st, he and his colleagues will present their plans, get feedback from the locals, and evaluate their role towards conservation.

Mr. Patil further added that the forest department will have to look at the future trend in farming, since the birds are attracted to crops like Bengal gram, groundnut, wheat, and millet. He even pointed out that locals have lodged complaints that a development inside the sanctuary is being obstructed because of its protected area. The reason is because many locals are not aware of these legal issues, and should be made aware of future trends in conservation and their impact, laws and legislation, among others. Furthermore, on the March 22nd, a workshop will be held for the forest department in which the staff will learn about the bustards' ecological importance, how to identify them, and conservation issues. There will also be a discussion regarding the department's various constraints, such as its funding. Mr. Patil also said that the department's staff will discuss about the emergency plan. The forest guards will give inputs on the plan and this way, it will be changed and additions will be made accordingly.

I'm very proud and happy to see what Mr. Patil has stated regarding the protection and conservation of the great Indian bustards. Which is by involving participation by the local communities living alongside these critically endangered birds. What amazes me about this plan is that it does not include relocation of various communities, since the idea would spark an uproar among villagers. Instead, it is going to be a community-based conservation where everyone is going to play his/her part in protecting the birds. In places like Ranthambore during the 1970s and '80s, villagers were encouraged to relocate elsewhere in order to make space for the wildlife. This is seen from images of old torn-down hamlets in the jungles' interior. But nowadays, things are different, particularly in the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary. Rather than forcing the villagers to move, the forest staff and the locals will be working together and share ideas to help protect the bustards. In my opinion, this is the best way to help save India's wildlife: through conservation based on community. I believe that if other Indian national parks and wildlife sanctuaries follow this example, then the wildlife of India will flourish in peace and harmony.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gray Wolf Numbers on the Verge of Decline in Northern Rocky Mountains

Northern Rocky Mountains Wolf

A recent government report has shown that the gray wolf population in the northern Rocky Mountains has dwindled in 2010, largely due to aerial shooting and federal trappings. These icons of the American West have been the subject of debate whether to strip them off their endangered species status, or not. One side, which primarily consists of wildlife and conservation groups, argue that the animals are endangered and will definitely be pushed to the brink of extinction without serious protection. The other side, which is made up of livestock agents, say that the animals have been responsible for multiple livestock killings and giving human hunters a hard time by preying on local elk populations. Amidst this ongoing debate, wolf numbers are decimating.

According to Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), some members of the Congress are serious in stripping away the wolves of their federal protections, despite the decline in numbers. Federal records have shown that the wolf populations decreased from 1,733 in 2009 to 1,651 animals in 2010. The populations range through the northern Rockies, covering states such as Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. During the 2009-2010 period, Idaho had witnessed the largest downfall from 870 to 705 wolves. This has made it a major contributor to the regional decline. Other states, however, had seen small population growths. Wyoming's wolf population increased from 320 to 343 animals, while Montana's population grew from 524 to 566. Oregon's and Washington's population rose from 19 to 37 wolves, including three breeding pairs.

America's wolves were removed from the endangered species list in 2009, but a federal court order backed by conservation groups, including the CBD, placed them back on the list in 2010. However, a new law introduced in the 112th Congress stated that it would remove the animals as endangered species and allowing a shoot-on-sight policy in the northern Rockies. It has been attached as a rider to spending bill proposals. The CBD stated that the House of Representatives had passed its version of the spending bill last month. Last week, a coalition of 48 conservation groups sent a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer requesting her to exercise her power as the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works for stopping the legislature. In the letter, the groups noted saying that management decisions should be based on science.

I'm very shocked to see what has happened to wolf numbers throughout the northern Rockies these past couple years. With this ongoing debate on whether to remove them as endangered species still going, these animals have been decimated through aerial shooting and other forms of hunting. But what is even worse is that there are politicians who are still intent on removing the wolves as endangered species even though their numbers are already in decline. According to this report, Idaho is largely responsible for the regional downfall of the nation's wolf populations. And although there are some states showing growths in their local populations, it is not always a good news for conservationists. That is, conservationists would fear that killing of the animals regarding livestock predation will further diminish the populations.

I personally agree with all the conservation groups, who feel strongly about the wolves' future. That is, decisions on wolf management should be science-based and not based on politics. Just because local population rises to as many as 1,733 animals does not mean that there should be an immediate decision to start killing them. I sure hope that Senator Boxer will exercise whatever power she can, in order to prevent this bill of permanently removing wolves as endangered species from going into effect. These animals are the top predator in America's wild and rugged lands, which means without them, the wildlife would not be in perfect. I believe that one way to prevent the wolves from further reducing the region's livestock numbers would be to employ livestock guardian dogs. This method was suggested by the Cheetah Conservation Fund, who provided the local Namibian farmers Anatolian Shepherd and Kangal Dogs to protect their animals from cheetahs. Similarly, it would be wise if ranchers and farm owners living in the Rocky Mountains region should use this strategy rather go about killing wolves on sight. Without wolves, North America would never be the same.

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Poaching Takes Toll on Migratory Birds in Hyderabad's Outskirts

An oriental pratincole

Recently, it was reported that more than a dozen migratory birds fell prey to poachers in the outskirts of Hyderabad. The victims were trapped in a thin, vertical net set up at the Patancheru Lake. Wildlife experts suspect that that it was the work of local residents. The victims, pointed out by them, belonged to a wide range of species such as barn swallows, red-wattled lapwings, bronze-winged jacanas, and oriental pratincoles. According to Tom Hash, a birdwatcher and scientist for ICRISAT, it was the first time a matter like this was recorded near the city. He further added that the net had trapped at least a dozen birds. This incident was immediately reported to the forest department. But even more shocking was that the officials were not aware of any such illegal activities. M. Raja Ramana Reddy, a forest range officer who is in charge of the anti-poaching squad, stated that only partridges and quails are threatened by poachers. The authorities claim that the trapping of waterbirds around Patancheru Lake was the first incident, but wildlife experts say the incident is nothing new. Trapping of waterbirds has been a common occurrence in Hyderabad's lakes, particularly during the migration season. The birds are caught by locals for food, which they either cook at home or sell to customers along the city's dhabas. Members of the Birdwatchers Society of Andhra Pradesh say that Hyderabad has become a thriving market for selling birds, many of which are sold for commercial purposes and consumed by poor households for survival.

I'm very shocked and saddened that many migratory birds flocking to Hyderabad's lakes are being trapped and sold for commercial purposes. But what really shocks me is that the forest department was unaware of these incidents. This is a perfect example of what happens to wildlife when authorities are not paying attention to dangers of any sort being imposed by humans. I personally feel that the forest department should take serious action against these incidents, and target those individuals who do the dirty work of trapping these birds and eventually their employers who oversee the illicit business spilling on Hyderabad's streets. However, I'm also deeply saddened by the way people living in poor households are surviving by relying on the birds as a food source. I feel that a great deal of action should be taken in helping these people. That is, to provide them with better alternatives in order to give up this lifestyle. And also to educate them about the ecological importance of the birds.

View article here

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rise in Pakistan's Snow Leopard Population

Snow leopard

Recently, Pakistan has witnessed a rise in its native snow leopard population from the town of Bunji after a series of initiatives taken couple years ago. Although no radio collar study was carried out due to lack of resources, eleven villagers claimed that they had seen the animals at a safe distance. According to accounts by wildlife experts, the area's snow leopard population has increased up to fifty to sixty animals compared to nearly thirty some years back. Initially, experts stated that the decrease in snow leopard population was a result of decline in the local markhor population. This wild relative of a goat is a favorite prey of the snow leopard, and Pakistan's national animal. And due to decrease in its population, the leopards began to find it hard to look for food. After interacting with the locals, experts revealed that they have begun monitoring the mountainous areas to keep a sharp lookout for poachers involved in killing of snow leopards and their prey. According to Ashfaqur Rehman, a banker in Bunji, two poachers were caught by the village watchmen and handed over to the police. He further added that the villagers will increase their monitoring mechanism in coming months, since snow leopard cubs are born between April and June. In addition to that, Islamabad-based tour operator Najeeb Ahmad Khan stated that he was quite optimistic and hoped to start his safari expedition again after it was shelved due to the decline in leopard and markhor populations in the past.

I'm extremely happy and proud to see what the local people living in Pakistan's northern mountainous areas have been doing regarding the local snow leopard populations. They have been collaborating with the authorities by keeping vigil for any poachers, and handing them over to law enforcement after catching them. It is amazing to see how a community that lives alongside a mysterious hunter of the high snows can actually help it, rather than kill it for fearing that it would attempt to steal the livestock. I feel that the work done by the people of Bunji are a perfect example of how regular people can help save and protect their wild neighbors. Snow leopards are also native up further north in Central Asia, and east into the Himalaya Mountains. I personally think that if locals living in those places follow the example of Pakistan's people, then the snow leopard population in the world would be sure to increase.

View article here 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Montana and Federal Officials Negotiating Buffer Zones for Yellowstone Bison

Bison family near a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park

The Yellowstone National Park is one of the best wild places to look for some of America's most extraordinary wildlife. One of the prime attractions there is the American bison. This majestic creature, nicknamed "buffalo" by local people, has been the icon of the American West for generations. However, it was severely slaughtered at a mass scale during the 19th century by early European settlers. With less numbers of these wild relatives of cattle scattered across the western U.S, desperate measures were taken in order to revive their populations. This included establishing various national parks, and Yellowstone was one of them. Since its establishment in 1876, Yellowstone has become a haven for wild bison to roam free without the fear of being further butchered. And as a result, its population grew steadily. But in recent times, there had been numerous reports of these shaggy beasts migrating north of Yellowstone each winter in search of drier pastures for fresh food. This behavior brought them into close contact with cattle ranchers, who fear the animals could infect their livestock with brucellosis, a disease which causes a cow to abort its fetus. However, this is all about to change as Montana and federal officials are in talks of proposing to open a large area consisting of buffer zones north of Yellowstone for the bison to occupy during winter months. According to Chris Mackay, Executive Director for Montana Department of Livestock, the details of the plan could be planned out as soon as next week. This plan has been promoted by conservation group and wildlife agencies for years, but refused by ranchers and livestock groups--until now.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is also in favor of the plan, knowing that it would be a better alternative after ordering a 90-day ban on slaughtering the animals that migrate beyond the national park's boundaries. Yellowstone has even promised to release some bison that have tested negative for brucellosis this spring. As of now, no decisions have been made for those that were tested positive. According to Governor Schweitzer and other officials, the north side buffer stretches roughly 13 miles north of Yellowstone, consisting of the Gardiner Basin and ending at the Yankee Jim Canyon along the Yellowstone River. Mr. Mackay, however, stated that the place would be used to accommodate additional animals that migrate. He further added that fences and other barriers will be erected at the canyon's mouth to prevent the animals from entering Paradise Valley, which has several cattle ranches. The second buffer zone suggested by Governor Schweitzer was in the Madison River Valley, stretching twenty miles west of Yellowstone to Quake Lake. Unfortunately, the area was not included in the discussions.

I'm very happy to see what state and federal officials are planning, regarding Yellowstone's bison. For the past twenty years, these powerful creatures were seen migrating outside the national park and into Montana. Many ended up being shot and slaughtered by livestock agents, and some were rounded up back into the park. But now, there appears to be a new and safer alternative to tackle this problem. The first effort in carving out a new habitat for the bison ended in failure. 25 animals were brought to a 2500-acre patch Gallatin National Forest. But within weeks, they left the forest before government officials returned them back to Yellowstone. However, this new plan will cover an area roughly 25,000 acres, according to Mark Pearson of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. This could mean that bison will not end up wondering into unknown pieces of land which could be inhabited by humans. This article tells me that all the people, who are taking the initiative in providing a better solution for both ranchers and bison, are studying the animals' behavior closely and keeping track of their migratory routes as they search for fresh pastures to graze. I'm also very happy to see what Yellowstone's Superintendent Daniel Wenk recently stated during a meeting in the capital city of Helena. Which was to include parts of the national park after Governor Schweitzer proclaimed to allow hunting to keep the bison population in check. It was a very bold move, since it is said that many of Yellowstone's bison are genetically pure. However, I personally feel that the bison numbers can be kept in balance with wolves in place. Elsewhere in the nation, wolves have been receiving a bad press for livestock predation and their have been several attempts to de-list them as endangered species. I think one possible solution would be to bring the wolves in this area where there are bison. That way, the population of these gigantic creatures will be in balance and there would not be any livestock predation.

View article here                         

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Report- Nagpur and Raipur are Major Centers of India's Illegal Owl Trade

A brown fish-owl of India

India has always been a home to the tiger and other incredible wildlife for generations. Unfortunately, many of these animals have been targets for poaching and the illegal wildlife trade for decades. Usually when it comes to investigating these horrendous crimes, the victims which top list the list include tigers and other endangered species. However, a recent report submitted by Traffic has shown that owls have now become victims. During this study, a total of twelve owls were recorded. These included three live specimens seen in Mominpura and nine in Bastar district, Chhattisgarh. According to anti-poaching squad officials, Mominpura is a big hub of India's illegal bird trade. In addition to owls, partridges, quails, and parrots are also being sold on Mominpura's streets. Yet, the squad officials have never launched a single raid.

The study further revealed that the domestic trade of owls is highly lucrative and several tribes are making a living by selling them. Director of Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) Nitin Desai stated that the birds are being collected in the local Satpura forests, and big cities like Nagpur and Raipur have become major centers for the illicit activities. He further added that the owls include the famous great-horned owl of the Americas and the native brown fish-owl. Officials say that these birds fetch high prices between 80,000 rupees and three lakh rupees, and are valued by local mantriks and people involved in black magic. The study also shows that this illegal, yet lucrative business is sprouting all over India in states like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.

I'm extremely shocked in knowing how the owl population in India has been fluctuating as a result of this illicit business. The report issued by Traffic also included information from a nationwide study of India's illegal bird trade between 1992 and 2000. This gives an idea that the trade has been going on for a while now in the nation. In addition to that, there was also information gathered between 2001 and 2008, which showed that there are as many as 300 markets in India specializing in selling wild birds, including owls. These birds are essential to our motherland's ecosystems, as they feed on small animals such as rats and mice which are destructive to farmers' crops. Without these birds, the rodent population would keep growing steadily which would make lives miserable for farmers. But what really upsets me about this news getting to know that there is hardly any conservation program to save them. I personally feel that India should focus not just on few particular creature(s) like tigers, but rather on the wildlife as a whole. This includes every wild creature- small and large- that is native to the subcontinent. In addition to that, India should also establish rehabilitation centers for rescued animals and enforce a great deal of training for enforcement officials in order to battle various illegal activities such as poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Furthermore, I also feel that the local tribes involved in these illicit activities should be convinced to give up this way of making a living and rather collaborate with authorities in protecting the local wildlife.

View article here               

Thursday, March 3, 2011

India's Veteran Tiger Expert Fateh Singh Rathore Dead at 73

Fateh Singh Rathore

The Ranthambore National Park is one of the prime hotspots to look for wild tigers and other spectacular wildlife in India. It is also a place which once had a rich history of human occupation dating back to the 11th century. This is seen by the abundance of various ruins dotting the sanctuary. The largest and dominating of these ruins is Ranthambore Fort, which overlooks the park at 700 feet. However, like many of India's national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, Ranthambore has been a place of illegal poaching. Thankfully, in the midst of all the violence and bloodshed, there stood a figure which will forever be remembered as the face of India's wildlife conservation: Fateh Singh Rathore.

Since 1960 when he first joined the Indian Forest Service, Mr. Rathore worked as Ranthambore's Field Director in which he was part of the nation's first Project Tiger team. Fondly acknowledged as the "tiger guru", he became known for his knowledge of the big cat and ability to predict its whereabouts. For nearly fifty years, Mr. Rathore had been working tirelessly to save India's tigers. During his career span, he was granted two awards: First was in 1983, in which he received the International Valor Award for bravery in conservation. He was recently awarded the World Wildlife Fund's Lifetime Achievement Award in Jaipur last year. Sadly, the "Tiger Man" of India had succumbed to cancer and passed away on March 1st. He was 73 years old. He is survived by his son and two daughters.

I'm extremely saddened by the loss of one of the most dedicated individuals in India's battle to save the tiger. As a child, I had looked up to Mr. Rathore as an inspiration to why it is important to protect our motherland's precious and fragile nature from being mercilessly exploited. He has been always in the front-lines to saving India's wild tigers and the wildlife. But now, with his passing, it feels as if part of Ranthambore National Park is gone, too. However, I feel that even though the nation has lost one of its key figures in wildlife conservation, it should not stop experts and conservationists from doing what they do best. There is still a war going on out there in India's wild places, and should be fought valiantly in order to save the wildlife. Backing down will only result in the villains (poachers) taking advantage, and all of India's wildlife would be lost forever. This is why, in order to honor the life of Mr. Rathore, let us work side-by-side with our glorious nation's dedicated experts and conservationists to bring the threat of poaching to a permanent halt.

View article here