Monday, June 29, 2009

Money Conundrum and Conservation Blues

It is an unexceptionable argument that money is sine qua non for conservation. But this is only one side of the coin. Flip side is spending the money injudiciously. Injudicious spending of money is playing havoc in many of our wildlife reserves. Harebrained schemes that were drawn up just because money was allotted has caused depredation in many areas and have assumed quixotic proportion in some places.

Here is an incident from Parambikulam wildlife sanctuary worth a mention here. A few years back the authorities decided that some of the small wetlands that dotted the landscape of Parambikulam needed improvements. The raison d’ĂȘtre for the proposal was money allotted for habitat improvements. The intention was laudable but the results of the improvement works proved catastrophic. The improvement works drained the wetlands and made them totally unproductive. The shocking state of the wetlands (Vayals) now should be an eye opener for the wildlifers.

The deleterious results of pumping in money indiscriminately have been graphically described by scientists like George Wittemyer who have put under scanner wildlife reserves in Africa and Latin American countries. All wildlife Mangers should go through the research paper by George Wittemyer( Published in Science Magazine, Volume 321,4th July 2008).The analysis showed that what was intended did not materialize and remained a mirage. Several external quagmires were not foreseen.

We need an environmental impact analysis of each and every scheme for wildlife reserves before they are taken up. This assessment has to be made by a team of scientists and forest officers well versed in the ecology of the place. There is no use crying over the spilt milk. Scientists are equally responsible for the sorry state of affairs. Scientists should be courageous enough to stand up and point out bloomers instead of carping towards the end. They should rise above the trend of currying favors with the authorities for short-term gains.

The crying need of the hour is protection pegged at the highest level. Human resources management of wildlife reserves needs to be perked up to bring in men of high calibre. Wildlife reserves needs guy whose actions are prompted by the love for wildlife. Any Tom Dick and Harry cannot deliver the goods. Gone are the days when we could have got highly educated guys as forest guards for the asking. In areas like Periyar newly recruited guys are leaving for greener pastures the minute they get an opportunity. It is high time we made an analysis of this malaise and come up with schemes to make the job of frontline staff more attractive.

Landscape connectivity needs to be given priority of the highest order and has to be at the forefront of discussions while formulating plans for new sanctuaries. Money spent for ensuring landscape connectivity will be an insurance against future depredations. A striking reversal of this axiom can be seen in Eravikualm National Park. The boundaries of the Park were drawn up without taking in to consideration the ecological needs of Nilgiri Tahr. What should have been an ecological boundary was pointed out by knowledgeable people at the time of the formation of the park itself. But lackadaisical ways of the department and the political leadership squandered away the opportunity. Their main concern was production forestry in the neighboring Munnar Forest Division and they had apprehensions that Munnar Division would suffer in terms of revenue if the proposal is implemented. The human habitation in the areas proposed for addition to the park was negligible at that time and moving the inhabitants’ out would have been a very easy affair. But here also short sighted policies prevailed. Over the years the population has grown considerably and now moving them out is next to impossible. A golden opportunity was frittered away due to the blinkered views of a few officers who remained votaries of production forestry.

Scientists and forest officers have to work in tandem to evaluate the strategies for wilderness management and ensure that money spent is well spent. The mistakes of the past could very well become the springboards for carefully formulated policies for future. Political leadership has to chip in with a policy of non interference in the day to day affairs and the routine transfer and posting of officers in wildlife reserves. It should be left to the sagacious decision of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests . We need a stable administration manned by men with proven mettle if the denizens of the wild are to survive. There are no short cuts here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh Talks Tough

The days of taking things for granted in the allotment of central aid for conservation are over. Minister Jairam Ramesh has made it absolutely clear that henceforth accountability will be the prime factor in the scheme of things.

The minister was referring to the disappearance of tigers from the Pannna wildlife reserve in spite of pumping in lot of money. The minister said central government will fix accountability for the disappearance of tigers and lax persons will be put on the chopping block. An investigation team appointed by the ministry has pinpointed poaching as the prime causative factor behind the disappearance of tigers. Henceforth central allocation for the various tiger projects will be made on the basis of a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU).

High Range Tidings salutes the minister for the no nonsense attitude taken by him. Yes Sir, this is the way to go. We have to shed the shibboleths of the past and embrace a new conservation ethos marked by the love for wildlife. The job of managing the wildlife reserves should be left to dedicated men who love wildlife.A paradigm shift is urgently needed. We wish you the very best in your endeavour

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh Approves Tiger Relocation Protocol

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has given final nod for the tiger relocation protocol prepared by National Tiger Conservation Authority, in association with wildlife institute of India. The protocol is based on IUCN guidelines. Have a look at the protocol here

General Douglas Hamilton – Nilgiri Tahr Picture

For the people of High Ranges and the historians of Western Ghats General Douglas Hamilton needs no introduction. A little known fact about the legendary General Douglas Hamilton (8 April 1818 – 20 January 1892) is that the General was also a great illustrator.

I recently came across this wonderful drawing of Nilgiri tahr by him
Since the picture is in the public domain (,_Nilgiri_Tahr.jpg) I am publishing it here for the sake of aficionados. Enjoy

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mr Vijay Mallayya, have a look at this

Mr Vijay Mallayya, here is something from Scotland, that is worth pursuing. If properly handled it is bound to take you to heights of glory. I am sure that the benefits accruing would outstrip your calendar programme in popularity.

Whisky and wildlife conservation sounds a wee bit awry. But Scotland’s Famous Grouse Whisky and RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) have a fantastic ongoing programme worthy of emulation by others.

Money donated by Famous Grouse Whisky is utilized for conservation of endangered iconic bird of Scotland the Grouse. This partnership was recently given the ‘Best Partnership’ award at the Scottish Charity Awards (hosted by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations - SCVO). Famous Grouse is launching a new whisky which will benefit the threatened black grouse. 50p per bottle will be donated from sales to the RSPB.

RSPB's uses the money for habitat restoration work for the threatened species. The deal has raised £30 000 so far. Gregg Wilkie, Senior Marketing Officer with RSPB Scotland, who initiated the Partnership, says “What better excuse is there to enjoy a dram of Scotland's national drink?"

Bangalore and Mysore have some of the best conservationists in India. Talk to them and get in to this new bandwagon. It will pave the way for something for which the posterity will be indebted to you

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wildlife Reserves- The Need for Wildlife Trained Officers

I was shocked to see some of the photographs sent to me by my friend from the High Ranges.

Grasslands have been scraped clean to make trek paths in wildlife reserves. I scratched my head several times, but could not find any rationale for trek paths in areas with open visibility all around. Who needs them?

I do not blame the men who made these paths. They are unable to comprehend the implications. Only a wildlife trained officer can grasp the full implications. Grasslands scraped in the High Ranges will take at least 20 years to get back to a semblance of the original vegetation. In steep places soil erosion sets in with the first rains. I put the blame squarely on the men who post the officers.

I do agree that there are very good administrators among the breed of foresters. My fervent plea is that guys being posted to wildlife reserves should be given at least a basic introductory course in wildlife management before they take up the wildlife posting

One thing that the wildlife institute instills in trainees is genuine love for wildlife. How many of our officers have this genuine empathy for wildlife?

We can ill afford to commit the kind of mistakes committed in the High Ranges. Wake up officers at the top echelons of the department. Wake up forest minister.

I also want to mention very specifically that there should not be any witch hunting in the process of correction. The usual way out is to pass the bucks and find scapegoats. High Range Tidings is certainly not interested in any mudslinging.The department was obviously lax in its ways and a correction is certainly needed. we need to build a cadre of officers whose actions will always remain unswayed by unscientific considerations

The intention of this post is purely the welfare of the wildlife and the delicate ecosystem of High Ranges. This precious ecosystem could easily tip over like an applecart if we are not careful.

Panna- The Case of the Tigers That Vanished in to Thin Air

The special investigation team appointed by National Tiger Conservation Authority, headed by former chief of Project Tiger P K Sen, has returned the verdict that Panna has no tigers. The park has only two borrowed tigresses, translocated from Kanha and Badhavgarh recently. This is a nose dive in the fortunes of a park that once boasted 40+ Tigers.

A survey conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) recently had found only one surviving tiger in park. That is also gone now.

MP’s minister for forests Shri Rajendra Shukla has officially confirmed the sad news. The minister has ordered an enquiry.

High Range Tidings is appalled and saddened by this news. We don’t think a run of the mill jaded enquiry would produce anything worthwhile. We have always maintained that the job of managing the wildlife reserves should be left to competent hands who love wildlife. From men who see the postings in the park as just another job and a walk in the park, nothing more can be expected.

This is warning for the entire nation. We exhort central environment minister Shri Jairam Ramesh to intervene and come up with innovative schemes for the protection of tigers. The crux of the problem remains the attitude of ill equipped unmotivated front line staff

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rhinos- Happy News from Dudhwa National Park

May 29th was a happy occasion for Dudhwa National Park. There was an air of pervading happiness and camaraderie in the air. A Rhino calf was born on that day delighting the conservationists across the world. Here was hard evidence that a carefully crafted reintroduction programme can surely achieve what is intended.

The Rhino relocation programme in Dudhwa is one of the most ambitious conservation programmes launched in India. The effort was to give an upswing to the flagging scenario of Rhino conservation. It was launched in April 1984. To be precise it was also an attempt to bring back to a habitat where Rhinos once existed but were extirpated.

The reintroduction programme was kick started with an introduction of five rhinos. The population has slowly risen to 28, seven males, 15 females and six young ones. This includes the new calf born on May 29. The park authorities have left no stone unturned in their effort to bring to fruition this prestigious reintroduction programme.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gaur Deaths in Kanha Tiger Reserve

3 Gaur deaths have been reported from Kanha tiger reserve. Kanha has a sizable Gaur population.( Around 1600 as per last estimation)

Two Gaurs were found dead on May 26 and the third one was discovered dead on May 30th.Post-mortem reports have indicated the possibility of some bacterial disease.

Even though cattle close to the reserve have been vaccinated, authorities are taking no chances. A close vigil is being maintained.

Change in Policy

It is pretty difficult to get news from High Ranges alone. So I Will be posting interesting news from the forest and wildlife scenario gleaned from various parts of India.
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