Friday, September 2, 2011

Poaching Still Rampant in Northern India's Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary

National Chambal Sanctuary

Northern India is well-known for being the home of the nation's largest river: the Ganges. The river consists of several tributaries, including the Yamuna which flows by the Taj Mahal. Its surrounding region forms a vast array of vegetation, making it an ideal place to support extensive wildlife. One particular place that is renowned for housing such diversity is the National Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is named for its location by the Chambal River, a tributary of the Yamuna. It even houses rare and endangered species such as the Indian gavial, the red-crowned roofed turtle, and the Ganges River dolphin. But this paradise on earth is under tremendous threat of poaching that has constantly been taking toll of the wildlife. A recent report about a murder of a police officer near the town of Bhareh in Etawah district linked to the ongoing poaching activities. The victim, police driver Uday Pratap, was posted at the Chakar Nagar police station along with officer Dinesh Chandra Srivastava, when a gang of poachers from the city of Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan suddenly jumped out. Officer Pratap died at the scene, while Officer Srivastava was critically wounded.
The Indian gavial; one of the keystone species in the sanctuary

According to Rajiv Chauhan, secretary of the Society For Conservation of Nature, poachers have been actively conducting their grisly activities for the past 6-8 years due to the diversity in the fauna. He further added that local farmers would hire members of Rajasthan's Mongiya tribe to kill antelopes called blue bulls, known locally as "nilgai" (blue cow), which destroy their crops. But instead, the members target other animals like jackal, sambar deer, spotted deer, and wild boar. One wildlife enthusiast even added that they are infamous for killing tigers in Rajasthan. Mr. Chauhan also pointed that poor monitoring of wildlife is the main reason behind farmers hiring these tribals, who resort to killing rare animals and birds in the region. Many members are part of a well-organized network of poachers who work secretly. They include hunters belonging to the notorious Kanjar and Mallah tribes from towns like Pirahat in Agra, and Gyanpura and Bansari in Etawah district.
The red-crowned roofed turtle; one of several critically endangered species

This article clearly highlights the dark side of northern India. For generations, the region was often regarded as dangerous and inhospitable. To any western visitor, it would be perceived as an Indian equivalent of the Wild West. The region was remote and desolate with hilly, forested areas and deep ravines providing perfect cover and shelter to bandits known by the locals as dacoits. Just like the outlaws of the Wild West, these prolific individuals terrorized the local communities through robbery. Many rode on horseback and carried firearms. In fact, the word dacoity means "armed robbery." They were even romanticized in popular culture, most notably in the Bollywood blockbuster Sholay. But in reality, it was a different story. Most gang members hailed from local tribes native to the region. Some like the Kanjar, were notorious for engaging in criminal activities such as kidnapping, theft, and prostitution.
The Ganges River dolphin; a keystone species

But these people also took their brazen acts of violence to a whole new level by poaching. And in northern India, their criminal activities have been running amok over the years due to lack of proper wildlife monitoring. I personally feel that the National Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary has not been getting the attention required to a protected area under critical action. Poaching has been going on for eight years, and any further activity will bring the local wildlife closer and closer to the brink of extinction. Authorities really need to step up to the plate in protecting both the wildlife and the local villagers, as these people are also hardcore criminals to the core. They will, when given a chance, come bursting into a house and hold the family hostage before taking off with their valuables or kill any wild creature local to the sanctuary for profit.

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