|new indian elements and Thapar despair|
17 September 2007
Most Wanted Poacher Arrested
Maharashtra: Notorious tiger poacher Lakshman Singh Pardhi was arrested in the afternoon of september 17 in a joint operation of the Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh Forest Departments.
Acting on information provided by the Wildlife Protection Society of India, the team arrested Pardhi from Chanera, District Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh.
Pardhi, a resident of Betul district, has seven cases pending against him in Melghat Tiger Reserve, all involving Schedule I species such as tigers and leopards. There are two other cases against him in South Betul division as well. Pardhi and his wife are also known to have visited Delhi-based skin trader Sansar Chand in the past.
24 September 2007. Valmik Thapar wants to reintroduce tigers in Sariska.
In the jungles of rural India conservationists are now fighting an uphill battle to save the Bengal Tiger from extinction, reports Peter Foster in Sariska. Villagers are relocated to offer more space for tigers. The operations are organized to be much less traumatic than at Indira Gandhi period.
At first glance the village of Bhagani seems a place untouched by progress, a huddle of mud-and-thatch houses nestling in the kind of dense jungle that inspired Kipling to write of Mowgli and the fearful tiger, Shere Khan.
But while time may appear to have stood still - there is no plastic here, or television or electricity - in one crucial respect the jungle around Bhagani in the Sariska National Park, Rajasthan has changed forever.
Tigers stalk no more in Sariska after the last eight or ten of the park's tigers were finished off in a merciless six-month poaching spree in the summer of 2004.
It was a scandal that awoke the world to the depth of the crisis facing the Indian tiger, with a census this year revealing that as few as 1,300 tigers now survive in India, just one-third of the numbers of two decades ago.
Perhaps fittingly, therefore, it is in Sariska that Indian conservationists are launching the fight-back to save their national animal.
Bhagani, home to 21 families, is the first of four jungle villages in Sariska that will be re-located in order to create a haven of tiger habitat where the animals can breed undisturbed.
Only when relative peace has been restored to Sariska will Indian forest service officers attempt to re-introduce tigers from the nearby reserve at Ranthambore - a feat which has never been successfully accomplished before.
The project to move the villages has been welcomed by tiger experts and conservationists who argue that until India's national reserves are protected from human encroachment tiger numbers will continue to decline.
"This is the single most important issue facing the survival of the tiger," said Belinda Wright, director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India."It is imperative that we give them dedicated space to live and breathe."
However while no-one doubts this theory, in practice it is laborious work moving villages whose populations have often increased tenfold since Indira Gandhi launched India's last big push to preserve the tiger in 1973.
Indian laws enacted at Independence to protect the rights of tribal peoples decree that none of the villagers can be moved forcibly, requiring months of patient persuasion by forest officials.
"It takes times," says P.S. Somashekar, Sariska's weary-looking director, "we cannot just order the people to leave. Land for a new village has to be found and the people have to be satisfied with their new lives."
That process has already taken 18 months in Bhagani but finally the villagers are being persuaded to move away and begin a new life on a plot outside the boundaries of the park. Most seem to be looking forward to a better existence.
"We are happy to go," says Radeshyam, a village elder who was born in Bhagani 65 years ago.
"It is a little sad for me, but we going for my children and grand-children. We want to get them an education."
The women, who spend five hours of every day collecting firewood and water, are particularly enthusiastic. "At the new village we will have water on tap, cooking gas connections and even electric fans to sleep under," says one of the women with an expansive whirl of her arm.
The hope among forest staff is that if the Bhagani move is successful, it will inspire other villages to follow, breaking down years of distrust which has grown between the people and the government.
The last village re-location project in Sariska in the 1970s ended in complete failure after the villagers returned to their original homes, unhappy with the new land they had been given.
This time, promises Rajesh Gupta, Sariska's deputy director, it will different.
"We hope this project will serve as a beacon for others to follow. The people have been given fresh water and 'pukka' [brick-built] houses to live in. We want them to be happy for this to succeed."
Optimists will be hoping that the Bhagani project will herald a new era for India's tiger, opening the way for other national reserves to tackle the human-animal conflict which is has crowding the tiger to the brink of extinction.
The odds, however, are firmly stacked against success, as Sunita Narain, a leading environmentalist observed when she was asked to investigate the plight of the tiger by India's prime minister following the scandal at Sariska.
Not all reserves like were as bad Sariska, she wrote in her Tiger Task Force Report, but "protection of tigers is happening in India against all odds ... a Sariska-type crisis haunts every protected area in India - where islands of conservation are under attack from poachers, miners and every other exploitative activity."
9 October.Times of India.
Villagers poisoned two tigers in Assam.
GUWAHATI: At a time when wildlife lovers are hitting the panic button over the dwindling population of big cats because of poaching, the recent 'revenge' killing of Royal Bengal tigers by villagers in Assam is bound to further aggravate their concern.
Villagers who lost their cattle to tigers near the Orang National Park in Darrang district poisoned two of the big cats in revenge. Forest officials said the two tigers died on October 2 and 4 after consuming insecticide-laced carcass of a buffalo that one of them had preyed on.
Incidentally, the big cats were killed when Assam was celebrating 'Wildlife week'. The killing took place when 37 muster roll (casual) forest workers were on strike demanding better pay and other facilities.
Manpower constraints and dense human settlements around the 78.8 sq km national park have hit conservation at Orang very hard. According to the 2000 Tiger Census, there were about 20 of the big cats at Orang National Park.
10 October. Valmik Thapar recorded by Hindustan Times 10 October (firstly interviewed on 27 September)
TIGERS NEED A MIRACLE TO SURVIVE (A Great specialist in complete despair)
India's dwindling tiger population will never recover and it will take a miracle to save those left from habitat destruction and poaching, a renowned expert said on Wednesday.
Failure of authorities to understand the needs of tigers and provide protection to them has led to numbers falling to 1,300 now from around 3,700 in 2001-02, Valmik Thapar told Reuters ahead of the Reuters Environment Summit next week.
"I believe that the government of the day failed the tigers of India and we cannot recover this population ever again," said Thapar, who has spent the past three decades documenting the behaviour of tigers and crusading for their survival.
"A miracle is required to save the Indian tiger. But I don't believe in miracles, as the commitment to save tigers is non-existent."
Thapar, 55, has written 15 books about tigers and presented around 20 documentaries for broadcasters and channels such as the BBC, National Geographic, Discovery and Animal Planet.
His close relationship over six or seven years with a tigress called "Macchli" -- meaning fish in Hindi due to a fish-like marking on her cheek -- is widely documented in his films.
Thapar, also known as India's "Tiger man", was also the first to document how male tigers behave in a family unit.
"What is happening now is a great tragedy," he said. "No one understands the needs of tigers. Committees set up to look after tigers are filled with people who know nothing about the tiger."
The bushy-bearded conservationist said government initiatives like the setting up of a Tiger Conservation Authority and a Wildlife Crime Bureau were just "lip service" and "rhetoric".
He said the tiger's survival was dependent on rapid action, reform and strong protection of the animals and their habitat.
But instead, Thapar said, the government was placing the animals under greater risk with a new law giving people rights over forest resources and advocating the co-existance of tigers and man.
"Lions don't co-exist with people in Africa, jaguars don't co-exist with people in South America and tigers and leopards have never co-existed with people in India," he said.
"It's a myth. It's an illusion. It's the biggest disaster that the present government has started to believe."
The Recognition of Forest Rights Act, passed last year and expected to formally become law in the coming months, grants some of India's most impoverished and marginalised communities the right to own and live off resource-rich forests.
But it has sparked debate amongst conservationists and the government who disagree on whether it will help save or further threaten tigers.
Thapar said from 1850 to 1950 at least 100,000 tigers were killed by man, 25,000 people were killed by tigers and around one million livestock were killed by tigers, proving that there was a huge amount of conflict between man and tigers.
"But our politicians have not understood this," said Thapar. "They think you can cuddle tigers."
He said there would be no legal cover for national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, leaving them open to exploitation by forest dwellers as well as by timber and poaching mafias.
"This is the end of forest India. It's like opening a bank and saying to the public come and loot."
Despite his distinguished career which was filled with thousands of memorable moments, Thapar said his life was a failure as he had failed in the battle to save India's tigers.