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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Retaliatory killing of wildlife India- A bane to conservation efforts


Recent death of a tigress named Bagahinala and two of its cubs due to poison at Pench, Madhya Pradesh is a big blow to conservation and this incident has made me pen few thoughts on the issues that are being currently being debated on various media portals. It has been suggested that the persons involved may be road contractor who has moved in with migrant workers who had poisoned the water hole and i fail to understand as to why this was done since the reason given was to kill deer and boars for their meat... now the poison killing the animal can kill humans too... hence this confusion.
http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/tigress-2-cubs-found-dead-in-madhya-pradeshs-pench-tiger-reserve-1292513

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/orang-national-park-tigress-poisoned-to-death-in-nearby-village/
                     Images : Courtsey Google Images from various new media

Man- animal conflict has been the major cause for death of wildlife be it the tiger, leopard or the elephant in India next to poaching which is quite prevalent in most forests even though the official claim that the poaching is on decline. This is untrue. Man animal conflict has always been present on the fringes of the forest but then with further encroachment into the forest by the local villagers be it for grazing of their cattle / sheep in the forest(to save recurring cost of fodder), hunting of deer & wild boars for their meat consumption has greatly enhanced this conflict. This is true for most reserves and forests in India and additionally hotels /resort buildings are cropping up within the buffer zone thereby reducing the habitat.

The habitat of wildlife is shrinking each day due to the greediness of the human beings be it the government  in the name of development or just individuals who live on the fringes of the forest  encroaching into the forest land. Just today there was news on the TV about an elephant on rampage at Gudalur, Nilgiris Tamilnadu and has killed or injured few human beings. Local populations along with the local political leaders was conducting a strike in front of Forest department office and were demanding that the elephant be shot dead to prevent further incidents. Similar demands were made few months back when a tiger killed a person in the same area (Gudalur) and the tiger was shot to death to appease the locals. Also recently a tiger killed a cattle herder on the fringes of Bandipur and similar situation warranted shooting of the tiger to appease the villagers. Recently a leopard was found dead due to poisoning at Bandipur, Karnataka and tigress poisoned in Orang , Assam , tiger at Koidaikanal, Tamilnadu and these area cause of worry to the conservationist all over the country. Anonymous sources in department say the Villager living on the fringes of the forest or within the forest hold the sword of Damocles over the department, that if no action is taken they would resort to poisoning of wildlife and it may have serious consequences to all animals in the vicinity.

Reduction in habitat has issues in addition to man- animal conflict... fights among animals especially predators who are territorial and this often leads to death of the predators if not driven out to the buffer areas or out of the forest. The number of deaths due to territorial fights may not be as much as the other causes of death as written above.The year 2016 is been bad for tigers in India and as on date official record of tiger deaths is 24 as on 31st March ..See the list here  but there are many more that we have come to know on social media network that is not included in the list. The body parts of 11 tigers have been seized which means these tigers have also been killed but not listed in earlier list of tiger deaths.See here for body parts

Conservationist have been keeping only the statistics of tiger deaths since the wild tiger population was decimated from estimated 100,000 few decades back to just 2236 numbers as per the last census taken in 2015. There have been innumerable death of leopards and elephants due to poisoning, road kills and mob frenzy that has not come to limelight but does get a passing mention in regional news papers .

How do we address this issue in longer run to conserve wildlife?? Well proper and timely compensation needs to be meted out to villagers for their loss by the forest department instead of procrastinating once the correctness of the incident is ascertained / Verified. To follow the norms set by NTCA with respect to killing of tigers if involved. Try increasing the habitat by relocating the villagers living on the fringes and buffer areas with appropriate compensations. This is not too much to ask of the department and am sure if done judiciously there may be decrease of such incidents in India.

Conservationists , NGO's and wildlife lovers are frustrated with the actions being taken by government , apex tiger body NTCA and forest officials. There has been an immense protest that had been going on for quite a few months because of T24 Ustad case of RTR and finally even the Supreme Court dismissed the petition by a nature lover for reintroducing of T24 into the wild from its captivity in zoo. Protests happening in Pench for pushing the authorities to find the culprits and also to ensure more vigilant force to avoid such deaths.

I only hope that our future generations are able to enjoy wildlife in their natural habitat and not in their school books and zoo. This is possible only if effective actions are taken immediately by all concerned after putting their egos into the closet.