Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Census Shows Increase in India's Tiger Population

A pair of tigers

A latest census has indicated that India's tiger population is on the rise in the state of Maharashtra, and numbers in other states are either rising or remaining constant. However, wildlife experts are still upset over the conservation efforts which are hindered by uncontrolled poaching and development of infrastructure projects in forest areas. Experts state that while the source population has been well-protected in most states since 2006, the offspring that scatter beyond the core sanctuary fall victim to poaching and human development. The latest data showed that the average number of tigers in Maharashtra rose from 103 in 2006 to 168 in 2011. In addition, new surveys that were carried out with the use of camera traps revealed that other states like Assam, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu also saw a growth in the tiger population. According to Kishor Rithe, a member of the National Board of Wildlife, the reason for the rise in tiger population is due to some steps taken by various states. For example, Maharashtra proposed five new tiger sanctuaries in the past three years and brought 620-square kilometer area under legal cover. These new sanctuaries are in controlled locations for breeding and safe diffusion of tigers. Furthermore, the government has also moved over 17 villages from the core areas of these sanctuaries. Other states, however, have not declared so many sanctuaries for tigers. He further pointed out that these figures are only an illusion, as bigger dangers still threaten the tigers' survival. Experts state that poaching is more ignored and undetected, compared to other crimes. Independent estimates indicate that only two to three percent of poaching cases are disclosed, of which only a minute reach the conviction stage. Nitin Desai of the Wildlife Protection Society of India stated that there is a total lack of intelligence network to prevent poaching, and that poachers are more aware of tigers' movements and the precise time they would appear at a specific waterhole, compared to forest officials.

I feel this article provides the reality behind the good news of India's tiger population. Although the numbers show that the population on the rise, there is lack of evidence for that surge. For example, Maharashtra and few other states have shown an increase in tiger numbers due to various steps they have taken in ensuring their survival. These include declaring more sanctuaries at controlled locations for breeding, relocation of villages from core areas, and through the use of camera traps. It is unclear what methods forest officials in other states are using to ensure that tiger populations are either increasing or staying stable, but I'm assuming that tigers in those states are dispersing beyond the core areas making them vulnerable to infrastructure development projects and poaching. I firmly believe that the remaining states in India where tigers thrive should implement the tactics used by Assam, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, in order to guarantee the survival of tigers. Furthermore, the threat of poaching is an extremely serious matter and every state across India should form an intelligence network comprising of not just forest officials but also local police departments and other authorities to prevent the perpetrators from conducting their illegal activities. Furthermore, tough penalties should be imposed on poaching regardless of what animals are the victims and how many are killed.

View article here            

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Blackbuck Poaching Sparks Protests Among the Bishnoi Community

The poaching of blackbucks has been in the news in recent times, but one story that has stood out took place in Rajasthan's Sri Ganganagar district where the continuous poaching of these magnificent antelopes has sparked protests among the Bishnoi community. Members of the community asserted that there had been as many as sixty reported cases of blackbuck poaching in the past six months. A recent incident occurred near 6 TK village near the town of Muklawa, where villagers witnessed a blackbuck caught in a trap set up by poachers. They immediately contacted the forest officials, but they did not arrive for three hours. The forest department has filed an FIR against the unidentified perpetrators under several sections of the Wildlife Protection Act. According to animal activist Nanu Ram Bishnoi, the Muklawa area is home to about 2,500 blackbucks but are now severely threatened by the ever-growing incidents of poaching. He further added that although FIRs were filed against the unknown poachers, the investigation was not properly carried out. The Bishnois stressed that forest officials do not reach the scene of the crime on time when they are informed of a poaching incident. However, officials stated that much of the poaching incidents were documented in Sri Ganganagar's revenue land area instead of forest area.

A Bishnoi woman; the Bishnoi people are well-known for their unconditional love of  wild animals and will not hesitate to take action against those who would inflict harm upon them. 

I'm very appalled and disappointed by the way forest officials have been responding to various incidents involving poaching of blackbucks. This article clearly demonstrates how the Bishnoi have a complete mistrust of individuals committed to the protection of wildlife that share the lands with their human neighbors. Because of this negligence, poachers are able to evade arrests and prosecutions and continue to conduct their illegal activities. I feel that if the forest officials are going to continue to delay their responses to such poaching incidents, then only the Bishnoi people can take matters into their own hands to protect the blackbucks and other wild animals. These people had long been renowned for their unconditional love of nature, and have sacrificed their lives in  protecting the plants and animals that live side-by-side them. The most notable example of these people's efforts in protecting nature was the Khejarli Massacre, in which 363 Bishnoi men, women, and children sacrificed their lives saving the khejri trees from being cut down by Maharajah Abhay Singh of Jodhpur to build his palace. Even in present-day India, the Bishnoi continue to protect the plants and animals that live alongside them and never refrain from taking action against those who would bring harm to them. The two most famous cases involved Bollywood megastar Salman Khan and former Indian cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, each of whom were held responsible for illegal poaching of blackbucks leading to the Bishnois staging strong protests against these two men. Recently, the Bishnoi community has launched protests against the killings of blackbucks perpetrated by poachers and alleged that forest officials were delaying their responses during the times of each incident. Activist Nanu Ram Bishnoi stated that the community has presented a memorandum to local district administration officers addressing Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot that these incidents must be stopped. Suppose there is no response from the state government of Rajasthan to take decisive action against this ongoing catastrophe, then the only option for the Bishnoi people would be to deal with the problem on their own terms. Even if it means sacrificing their lives the way their ancestors did hundreds of years ago.

View article here      

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Iowa Zoo Joins Alliance Demanding an End to Poaching

African elephant

It has been recently reported that the Blank Park Zoo of Iowa has joined forces with forty other zoos and wildlife programs in 36 countries to demand a more assertive battle against worldwide poaching. The shared statement, which was announced Friday, culminated from the international Zoos and Aquariums: Committing to Conservation conference at a facility in south Des Moines earlier this month. The representatives of the conference prompted all governments and international groups to initiate continuous campaigns to halt the illegal poaching of wildlife. This includes increased law enforcement with efficient and deliberate penalties for wildlife crimes, more collaboration between governments to battle cross-border activity, and programs to increase awareness among consumers about the illegal wildlife trade. The delegates also noted that big cats, birds, great apes, sharks and rays, turtles and other reptiles are among the animals suffering in the hands of poachers who sell them, adding that it is a coordinated multi-billion dollar business.

I'm very proud and happy to see that the Blank Park Zoo has joined forces with other zoos and similar wildlife organizations around the world in a battle against the ongoing poaching and illegal wildlife trade that has decimated and continues to decimate the wildlife. This zoo had earlier raised funds for conservation initiatives such as the Great Ape Trust and the International Snow Leopard Trust, each of which is aimed to protect and conserve a particular species of animals. This time, however, the zoo has taken a much bigger step to become part of a crusade aimed at urging governments for a halt in poaching of wild animals around the world. Recently, the U.S government announced that it would spend $10 million on conservation efforts to protect Africa's elephants and rhinos. I very much hope that governments in countries around the world, especially those which have been suffering from poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, will respond and act upon this message the coalition is sending out.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rajasthan Aims to Save the Great Indian Bustard and Reintroduce the Siberian Crane

Great Indian bustard

It has been recently reported that the state government of Rajasthan has announced a major plan to save its state bird: the great Indian bustard. The plan, which is titled "Project Great Indian Bustard", is focused towards the conservation of these critically endangered birds. The government declared an instantaneous release of Rs. 12.90 crore for the project, while more assets would be released every year. It has also constructed a "recovery plan for critically endangered species" under the integrated development of wildlife habitat for the conservation of the bustards. The proposal has been sent to the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment. And until the ministry gives an approval, the forest department would work for the operation of  Project Great Indian Bustard. Under this project, a task force would be established consisting of local public representatives and wildlife experts. The forest department has already built up enclosures in a 2500-hectare area at Ramdeora and Saunkhalia areas of Desert National Park in Rajasthan's Jaisalmer district. Forest and environment minister Bina Kak has called for lineup of two range officers and regular surveying of areas where the bustards are found. In addition to enclosure establishment, the forest department would also cultivate "inviolate space" on an area of 2000 hectares and concentrate on water spots and security infrastructure. In addition, extra vehicles would be given to the staff for monitoring to investigate poaching.
Siberian cranes

In another event, the forest department is going to bring back Siberian cranes in Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur district. The goal is to establish a semi-captive Siberian crane center for visitors to see the birds, which once congregated in large numbers during winter months. Nowadays, the cranes do not visit a single area in India. The plan has been postponed for the past year, but now has been sent to the National Wildlife Board for approval. According to the plan, six Siberian cranes will be reintroduced to Keoladeo Ghana National Park from Belgium and kept in semi-captive conditions for display in natural environments. A meeting for the abstract proposal and site selection was set up in February this year at the national park. It was decided that the cranes should be isolated for at least 45 days for which a quarantine facility in the park's nursery area would have to be established. It was announced that a facility of 100x100 feet and six feet high would be developed. The proposal has been given an approval by the state wildlife advisory board and sent to the National Wildlife Board for a final approval.

I'm extremely proud and happy that the state of Rajasthan has taken tremendous steps regarding the conservation of these two magnificent species of birds. The great Indian bustard has disappeared from more than ninety percent of its former range throughout India, due to threats ranging from poaching and habitat destruction to lack of protection of nesting sites, missing support from local communities, and lack of organization between forest departments in their habitats. Recent wildlife census figures recorded only 200 bustards in six states: Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan. Now, it appears that there seems to be a light of hope as the state of Rajasthan has proposed a plan to bring it from the brink of extinction. Similarly, the Siberian crane may be facing a similar future since it was last seen in 2001. I very much hope that the National Wildlife Board would approve of these two proposed projects intended on saving and conserving these two species of birds. It would be the only chance of hope for the people of Rajasthan and India to see these birds bounce back from extinction. Furthermore, I feel that this proposal to save the bustard should also be taken as an inspiration and a wake-up call by state governments in five other states above to conduct similar initiatives to further bolster the efforts to save the great Indian bustard after years of human-induced threats.