Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Plight of the Rhinos

The rhino poaching is assuming staggering proportions in Kaziranga National Park. Since January this year 13 rhinos have been poached in the park. Disturbed authorities have sought the help of Border Security Forces to curb the menace of poaching. A high-level meeting of forest officials, Park authorities, BSF and police personnel was held recently.
 High Range Tidings feel much more needs to be done to put the house in order. The poor forest guards there were not paid their salaries for several months and left with no other alternatives, recently the guards demonstrated in front of KNP's main office in Kohora range demanding payment of their five months salaries. We hope this has been sorted out. The high morale of the low paid watchers and forest guards is the key to conservation success. Taking up the cudgel of law and bringing in police will not deliver the goods. These frontline soldiers have to be motivated and their grievances have to be addressed on a war footing whenever it occurs. If they see the job as just a way to get monthly wages at the end of the month, things will not proceed the way we want it. Recruit young guys and motivate and inspire them the way terrorists mould their recruits. We need a band of guys willing to do anything for wildlife led by highly motivated officers. I am sure we will see a sea change within no time at all if the plan is implemented properly. This is no high flown wisdom. I am speaking from my past 30 years’ experience in managing wildlife. I have seen it all and experienced it all. I have seen the incredible heights to which the low paid frontline guys can rise with proper motivation.
 Rhino poaching has international ramifications. It is rampant in Africa. Eight white rhinoceros have been killed by poachers in the Kruger National Park recently. In an effort to curb poaching SA National Defence Force would take over from the SA Police Service the patrolling of the park's international border with Mozambique. Total number of rhino killed in the past three years comes to 93. Rest of Africa is also reeling under the impact of poaching.

To add insult to injury a  Zimbabwean court last week granted bail to six men arrested at Bubye Valley Conservancy, home to Zimbabwe’s largest remaining rhino population, in connection with rhino poaching. Enforcement is very slack in in Zimbabwe.

According to Colman O’Criodain, Wildlife Trade Analyst, WWF International.“Zimbabwe’s failure to live up to its obligations to CITES is unacceptable and has caused its already endangered rhino population to decline"
A recent report by TRAFFIC and IUCN, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, showed that since 2006, 95 percent of the poaching in Africa has occurred in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

 The main threat to rhinos comes from the consumers in the orient preparing oriental concoctions from rhino horns. Men with sexual dysfunction are willing to pay through their nose for its purported aphrodisiac qualities.  In Vietnam demand has escalated in recent years.  A concerted effort by international community with the help from Interpol is urgently needed to put a stop to the menace. Time to act is now. A Dodo like tragedy is lurking round the corner.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Munnar Land Scam – Don Quixote in Blunderland

The way things are moving in Munnar reminds me of Don Quixote. The ploy of the politicos is clearly evident. The politicians’ want to divert the attention of the common man from the real facts by insinuating land grab by Tatas. Their protégés have gabbed prime land and the recent ruling by honourable high court has landed them in a fix. The Tatas have at no stage willfully occupied or encroached on land that does not belong to them. Tata administrative service runs much more efficiently than the IAS. Tatas have continuously reiterated that they will fully cooperate with any survey the Government plans, and that the Government is free to take over any excess land if the survey indicates so.
The politicos were speaking about 50000 acres of excess land held by Tatas. Several surveys including a satellite survey have been done. But there was absolutely no evidence of any excess land. What happened to the land? Vanished in to thin air? The Tatas are having the last laugh
The politicians are cleverly hiding from the general public that the Tatas exited from the plantations in Munnar in 2005.  In 2005 Tata Tea transferred management control of 17 tea estates in Munnar to KDHP in which employees hold a 69 per cent stake. It is an establishment run by the workers now. Tata Tea continues to support welfare activities in Munnar such as a high school, a hospital and a complex for disabled people.
The brouhaha created about the checks dams is another matter that requires serious in-depth study. The check dams were built by the Britishers to provide drinking water to workers and rear fish. It is extensively used by the wildlife also. As the check dams had lost their initial strength it was rebuilt recently by Kannan Devan Tea Company.  As KDHP had no money to spare in the initial years, the workers had tried to get financial assistance from the district panhayat to rebuild the dams. The reply from the authorities was that they cannot sponsor building of dams in private property. Yes, the area was clearly property belonging to KDHP and now suddenly the area has become Government land and the check dams have been given a cloak of new structure.
Over the past half a century the ecosystem has stabilized around the waterbody. In a clear cut case of trying to garner brownie points the politicos now want to demolish the dams and proclaim from the high ramparts that they have taken on the Tatas. What utter foolishness. Government has a right to control water sources. If they are that keen they should take over the check dams instead of demolishing them. Have a thought for the denizens of the wild also. They have no votes but that does not mean you can ride roughshod over their rights. Remember, there is lot of wildlife in the tea estates of Munnar.