Sunday, June 16, 2013

Borivali Police Constables Receive Helpful Tips on Controlling Leopards

Police officers receive training from members of Sanjay Gandhi National Park's leopard rescue team

It has been recently reported that about a dozen police constables from the Kasturba police station in Mumbai's Borivali suburb received training in tackling a very unusual problem: leopards. The training was provided by volunteers from Sanjay Gandhi National Park and its leopard rescue team. Last year, twelve people were killed by leopards in Mumbai as a result of animals straying into the city and the death count over the past ten years stood at over a hundred. According to park officials, lives could have been saved had people been more careful. The leopard rescue team, which had earlier carried out similar training courses at police stations in Aarey and Dahisar colonies, stated that the police officers play a very crucial role in these situations since they are the first to reach the scene of the incident. When asked whether the police have the right to shoot a leopard to save people's lives, the forest officials answered that there was no need to kill the animal when other alternatives were available. The officials also warned the police officers not to set up traps for the leopards themselves, and recommended they wait for the experts. Field Director Sunil Limaye stated that if the police officers are trained and outfitted in tackling these situations, it would be a tremendous help in rescuing the leopard and saving people from attacks. Sadanand Date, Joint Commissioner of Police, expressed his gratitude to the training as "useful", and promised that the police will commit in "every possible way" to the bids to protect both the people and wildlife.
Leopard in Sanjay Gandhi National Park

I'm extremely proud to see what efforts are being undertaken in Mumbai, in order to protect both the general public and the wildlife. The city's area has been prone to attacks by leopards for several years, especially near Sanjay Gandhi National Park. In order to tackle this issue, the park's volunteers and leopard rescue team has conducted training sessions at various local police stations and educated their members on how to help out in the ongoing battle to prevent any fatal encounters between people and leopards. This is because whenever an attack occurs, police are usually first to show up at scene of the incident. The major factor during the aftermath of a leopard attack is the public reaction. This can be seen as people swarm in great numbers to either drive away or even kill the leopard suspected of being responsible for an attack on the spot. Sanjay Pagare, a senior member of the leopard rescue team, pointed out that an angry mob would also provoke an attack from a leopard in order to protect itself from its human enemies. He further added that a leopard can easily be rescued if crowds of people are not allowed to go near it. Therefore, police officers are the only means of keeping an angry mob at bay from the leopard.
Borivali skyline and Sanjay Gandhi National Park

One of the volunteers named Dipti Humraskar stated that one way to keep such crowds away is by establishing a temporary curfew under Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code. She provided a recent example in which a leopard strayed into a busy area in Dhule. The police, in response, called for a curfew until it was caught. As a result, many lives were saved. Another major problem within the peripheries of Sanjay Gandhi National Park is the poor distribution of garbage resulting from occupation by migrant workers arriving to help with the city's construction. This attracts stray dogs from all over Borivali, and they in turn draw leopards which see them as their primary food source. This is why I firmly believe it is also crucial to give priority in improvising the distribution of garbage to keep leopards from straying beyond the boundaries of the national park. One method is by developing and distributing special garbage cans and dumpsters similar to the ones used to keep bears from raiding people's garbage in North America. In addition, I also believe that this news should be taken as an inspiration for police officers in other parts of India where leopard and other animal attacks are rampant. By working alongside wildlife experts and forest officials, police officers can also lend their support in ensuring both people and wildlife live together in harmony.

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Greater Protection for Chimpanzees

Chimpanzees "fishing" for termites in Gombe National Park

It has been recently reported that the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service is announcing a rule that would provide chimpanzees with greater protection. The proposal pleased renowned primatologist and chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall, who congratulated the service for the decision. She further added that this is also good news for all animal rights organizations, especially the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) who have worked very hard in advocating against the use of chimpanzees in circuses, films, television shows, and even testing. This proposed rule would change the current classifications that assume wild chimps as "endangered" and their captive counterparts as "threatened." This split classification enables the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to finance medical experiments conducted on captive chimps. The U.S is the only nation in the world that is known to carry out invasive medical research on chimpanzees. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) stated that over one million chimpanzees disappeared from the wild since the twentieth century, and indicated that about 300,000 remain in the wild. However, the capture of these primates and destruction of their habitat is further making those numbers to go down. The proposition is expected to be decided after being open to public commentary for two months, and happens in about one month after the NIH announced plans to "retire" about 360 government-owned chimpanzees from its research facilities. That step would leave approximately fifty chimps still in the organization's custody. In January, a working group for the NIH told the organization that it should put a stop to six of the nine invasive chimp studies it finances. These studies include searching for a contagious cause for primary biliary cirrhosis and tests on the immune system's response to diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

I'm extremely proud of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service for proposing this rule in helping save lives of chimpanzees. These closest relatives of human beings have for generations been used for the purposes of "entertaining" the general public through circus performances, films, and television shows. The driving force behind the entertainment these primates provide is the harsh treatment they are subjected to from their trainers behind the camera. Furthermore, the chimps' attractive looks have made them a popular choice for buyers and sellers as exotic pets. However, as with any wild animal that is smuggled overseas as an exotic pet, the ultimate price to pay is the unpredictable behavior exhibited these primates that result in serious injury or even death of their so-called owners. This example was seen in the case of a chimpanzee named Travis, who gained notoriety for severly injuring his owner's friend in the state of Connecticut. The idea of bringing a chimpanzee or any other wild animal as a pet is deemed as inviting trouble to one's doorstep. It is an accident that is waiting to happen at any given moment.

With this proposed rule pending, the buyers and sellers who function the exotic pet trade would be restricted from transporting these primates across federal or state lines. I very much hope that this rule will be put into action for the sake of safety of both chimpanzees and humans. Both species are closely related to one another, but one species is adapted for life in the wild and not in an urban environment. I also hope that the Fish and Wildlife Service will also impose similar rules in an effort to save other wild animals that are victims to the exotic pet trade, and impose threat on human lives. These include big cats, bears, reptiles, wolves, other primate species and even marine animals such as dolphins and killer whales. They are highly unpredictable, which is their true nature, in spite of the entertainment they exhibit on public television and in circuses and amusement parks. Putting a halt to these animals from being smuggled overseas or from state to state is a key to saving their lives, along with the public.

 View article here 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Kutch Bustard Sanctuary Adds 32 Square Kilometers

A pair of great Indian bustards near a field at Kutch's Naliya grasslands

It has been recently reported that the Kutch Bustard Sanctuary in the Indian state of Gujarat has added 32 square kilometers in a major push for conservation efforts conducted at the critically endangered great Indian bustard. The recent addition of land has been given to the state forest department in and around the Naliya grasslands through the "land bank" procedure and under the demands of the Forest Conservation Act. The Kutch Bustard Sanctuary currently exceeds over only two square kilometers, and efforts to make it grow bigger have been slow since much of the surrounding land is comprised of grazing fields, revenue wastelands, and private property. Earlier this year, these uninhabited lands near the sanctuary and at the grasslands' outer edge converted into agricultural fields. Even the 32-square kilometer areas of land that has recently been transferred to the forest department has undergone such transformation over many years in about a dozen installments. According to one official, the transferred areas will steadily be announced as protected areas and the forest department now has legal groundwork with which to preserve the land as habitat for the bustards.

I'm glad to know that the Kutch Bustard Sanctuary has acquired more areas of land as part of the effort to conserve the great Indian bustard. However, majority of the area beyond the borders of the sanctuary is comprised of agricultural land which has been slowing the process. As of now, there are still ongoing negotiations with the forest and revenue departments for more land transfers. I hope that the two sides will come to an agreement regarding the acquired number of areas for the bustards. This current transferred patch of land made up less than a third of area recognized as the bustards' core habitat, which covers more than ninety square kilometers. The great Indian bustard is a critically endangered species, whose habitat in recent times has degraded across India due to human-encroachment through agriculture and mining. As part of the effort to revive the species, the nation must acquire pieces of land to allow this magnificent bird to flourish without any form of disturbance by people.

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

World Wildlife Fund Welcomes Kenya's New Anti-Poaching Amendment

An African bush elephant in Kenya

It has been recently reported that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has welcomed the Kenyan Parliament amendment in an effort to tackle poaching. The amendment will increase penalties for poaching of wildlife, especially elephants and rhinos, to up to fifteen years in prison and/or a fine of ten million shillings. This surge in 2,500 per cent on current fines means that crimes related to wildlife now have the same status and penalties as the Anti-Terrorism Crime Act, the Economic Crimes' Act, and the Organized Crime Act. According to WWF Regional Representative Niall O'Connor, this initiative would help in conserving the wildlife. He also noted that the amendment will see an increase in the number of game rangers to protect Kenya's wildlife. He further added that the WWF was willing to work with the government of Kenya to put a stop to the illegal wildlife trade that has been the biggest threat to the nation's growing economy.
Handicraft ivory item near elephant tusks at Port Klang, Malaysia

I'm very proud to see that Kenya has taken such an intensive move, in order to protect its wildlife from the ongoing threat of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. However, in other parts of Africa, most notably in Central Africa and South Africa, poaching has been indiscriminately wiping out wild animals at an alarming rate. Among the animals that have been in the news are elephants and rhinos. Central Africa has become infamous for its poaching, which not only fetches millions of dollars but also funds rebel groups operating in the region. These groups include the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the Janjaweed, whose members are infamous for conducting treacherous activities such as child-sex slavery, kidnapping, murder, mutilation, and military use of children. The ever-increasing threat of poaching in the region has forced several wildlife organizations to urge Central Africa's governments to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on poaching. But it seems the rebels have taken full control of Central Africa in a sense that governments have little or no chance in dismantling these rebel groups, and indicting their members on numerous crimes against humanity and wildlife. Furthermore, South Africa has and continues to be a major hub for illegal poaching activities carried out by criminal syndicates with access to sophisticated hi-tech equipment that overwhelms game rangers in the battle to end the poaching crisis. I feel that Kenya should also take a step further in aiding South Africa, Central African countries, and other African countries where poaching is rife. This would really help in stemming and ultimately cease the threat of poaching in Africa as a whole.

View article here