|Internet Bulletin : Issue Number 4
April 5, 2000
Wildlife of Maharashtra
to this issue
1. Status of Maharashtra's Protected Areas
5. Management and
Scientific Organisations for India (including Maharashtra's) wildlife :
|Status of Maharashtra's Protected Areas
Tadoba National Park
Tadoba National Park is the oldest national
park of the state of Maharashtra and since 1993, a Project Tiger Reserve.
It derives its name from the local god "Taru". The legend goes that the
village chief "Taru" was killed in an epic fight with the tiger. He is
worshipped by all the local villagers as the deity of "Tadoba". To date
the shrine, situated under a large tree on the shore of Tadoba lake, is
visited by adivasis (local tribals) during a large annual fair held in
Pusha maasa (between December and January). Tadoba has been referred to
as "The Jewel of Vidharba". Tadoba a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, is
a rich dry deciduous forest, a great place to walk and enjoy nature.
This splendid museum of Flora and Fauna holds more than thousand species of plants, 28 species of mammals, 181 species of birds, around 20 species of reptiles, 5 species of amphibians, besides large variety of fishes, insects and other life forms. Tadoba is famous for its Gaur or Wild Ox (Bos gaurus) and Crocodiles(Crocodylus palustris). As its main carnivora the park supports Tigers (Panthera tigris tigris), Leopards (Panthera paradus), Sloth Bears (Melursus ursianus), Doles or Wild Dogs (Cuon alpinus) and Hyenas. Various other animals like Nilgai, Sambar (largest deer in India), Spotted Deer or Chital (Axis axis), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), Mongoose, Civet Cat, Jungle Cat (Felis bengalensis), Langurs and Macques are commonly seen. The park is also rich in birds and insect life.
History : For centuries, the forest around "Chimur Hills" in Chandrapur district of erstwhile Central Province in Central India was famous for its wildlife. Dynasties of Gond kings once ruled this mystic place. In 1905, Shikar (hunting) was restricted only to wild animals and was completely prohibited from 1935. An area of 116.54 sq.km. (44.50 sq. miles) was declared as Tadoba National Park in 1955, vide Madhya Pradesh National Park Act. This area was transferred to the state of Maharashtra in 1956. An adjacent area of 509 sq.km. (196.56 sq. miles), has been declared as Andhary Wildlife Sanctury in 1986. It has been integrated with Tadoba National Park to ensure better wildlife management and since 1993 it is a Project Tiger Reserve.
Location : This park lies about 45 km. (28 miles) north of the district headquarter and an industrial town of Chandrapur in the Western Indian State of Maharashtra. The area of the park lies between longitude 79°15' to 79°28' and latitude 20°17' to 20°24' covering an area of approx. 116 sq. km. ( 44.5 sq. miles).
Topography : The terrain is undulating with panoramic views of hills (ranging between 200-350 meters in altitude with a gradual descent from North to South), valleys, lakes and meadows. Tadoba lake is situated almost in the centre of the park. Tadoba is marked with thick forests interspersed with meadows and areas which appear scrub forest.
Temperature : The mean annual temperature is 32°C (89.6°F) with a range of 9°C-47°C (48.2°F - 116.6°F) over the period. The weather is pleasant from November to February. The relative humidity during monsoon is around 76% while in summer it goes down to 20-25%.
Rainfall : The South-West monsoon
bursts around mid June and continues till September. The mean annual rainfall
is 1275 mm. The maximum rainfall occurs in July and August.
Flora : The forest type is classified as South Indian Dry Deciduous type by Sir Harry Champion and Mr. S.K. Seth. Tadoba has tremendous floral biodiversity in terms of deciduous trees. Along with Sag or Teak (Tectona grandis) the other very common trees are Tendu or Tembhurni (Diospyros embrayopteris) - the fruit of which is eat by herbivores and humans. The leaf is a very important minor forest produce as it is used to roll beedi the poor man's cigarette in India. Bheria(Chloroxylon swietenia) whose leaves are used as insect repellent. Ain or Crocodile bark (Terminalia tomentosa/ crenulata) is good timber and source of tanin. Dhavada or Axle wood (Anogeissus latifolia) is fire resistant, used in charcoal making and agricultural implements. Kalam (Mitragyna parviflora) is a good timber tree. The gum of Kuru or Karayagum (Sterculia urens) extracted by making slits in the bark, finds variety of uses in medicines, chocolate manufacture, etc.
Mahuwa (Madhuca indica) one of the most important trees for the tribals. The Gonds use the flowers to sweeten bread, the seeds as cattle feed, even as food in difficult times. Flowers are also a source of liquor which is compared to Ambrosia or nectar of the god. A strong Man-Nature relationship can be observed in this part of India. It is said that in most of the adivasis/ gond families, when a child is born the nectar of the Mahuwa flower is touched to its mouth even before mother's milk. At the time a promise is made by the parents, that the child will look after the tree all life long and a promise contracted from the tree to support the child for rest of his life.
Palas or flame of the forest (Butea frondosa) is important culturally and economically. Bija (Pterocarpus marsupium) is one of the chief medicinal gums of the world. has medicinal use, its gum has commercial value. Beheda (Terminalia belerica) and Hirda (Terminalia chebula) commonly found here are extremely important for medicinal purposes and in making of dyes respectively.
Around the lake one sees a large number of Jamun or Black plum (Syzigium cumini). They have the ability to survive even when the lower part of the tree is submerged for prolonged periods when water level in the lake rises in the monsoon and post monsoon period. At some of the important water holes like Panchadhara one sees huge tree of Arjun (Terminalia arjuna) whose gum is used as a drug in the northern parts of India.
Tadoba has extensive growth of Bamboo thickets
(Dendrocalamus strictus). Among the climbers Kach Kujali(Mucuu prureans)
is very common. Contact with the pods can create a painful itch, which
spreads as one scratches. The plant is medicinally important while it cannot
cure Parkinson's disease it can arrest the spread of this disease. Tadoba
is definitely a botanists delight.
Fauna : Tadoba is definitely a haven for mammals. Troops of Leaf monkeys or Hanuman langur greet the visitors as one enters the forest and they are common specially around the lake. The Spotted deer or Chital (Axis axis) is common near the lake and tourist complex as well as the many grassland patches in the forest. Population of the Indian Ox or Gaur (Bos gaurus) is significant and one encounters Gaur near the lake or in different forest patches.
Indian Ox or Gaur (Bos gaurus)
The Blue bull or Nilgai reportedly named by Emperor Aurangazeb to prevent large scale slaughter of this magnificent Antelope, can be seen in pairs or singly early morning or late evenings. The Sloth bear (Melursus ursianus) is found in the hilly areas, behind the main tourist guest house, near Vasant Bhandara and deep inside the forest at Katezari which is now out of bounds for visitors as it has been declared as the core area. The Dole or Wild dog (Cuon alpinus) is commonly seen. Hyenas, though not common, are encountered suddenly near thickets.
The Blue bull or Nilgai
Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) Tiger (Panthera
tigris tigris) population is around 25, sighting though not as common as
in more famous national parks as Kanha, they have been seen by many individuals
and groups. Sighting of the Leopard (Panthera paradus) have been rare,
though the number of leopards id estimated to be around 30. The Palm civet
is usually encountered at dust peering out from trees, as they come to
scavenge in dustbins specially near the youth hostel which is at one end
of the lake. Flying squirrels are commonly seen at dusk.
Bird life is rich starting with the magnificent Grey Headed Fishing Eagle (Ichthyophaga icthyaetus), the Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela), the Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhyncus). The forest resounds with the call of the Peacock (Pavo cristatus). More than 181 species of birds have been recorded here. The Crested Tree Swift (Hemiprocne longipennis), the Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), the Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi), Bronze Winged Jacana (Metopidius indicus), the Lesser Goldenbacked Woodpecker (Dinopium benghalense) are just a few of the interesting birds which one sees at Tadoba.
Lesser Goldenbacked Woodpecker (Dinopium benghalense)
Thirteen species of snakes have been recorded
at Tadoba including the Cobra (Naja naja), the Rock Python and the Russels
Viper. Monitor lizards, terrapins and star tortoises are some of the other
significant reptiles. The pride of place however goes to the Mugger or
Fresh Water Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) which is found in substantial
numbers in the lake. Sighting of the crocodile are varied as you sometimes
encounter them strolling on forest paths and feeling can be eerie when
you bump into one. The board near the lake says "Swimming strictly prohibited,
Survivors will be prosecuted".
Dragon flies, Praying mantises and other Mantises, Stick insects, Jewel beetles in a fascinating range of colours and shapes and an array of butterfly species including Pansies, Monarch, Mormons, Swordtails, provide the nature lover with an exciting world to explore.
Signature Spider Giant wood and Red wood
spiders with their large webs, specially in the monsoon and post monsoon
periods, are a real fascinating sights. In Tadoba one has encountered birds
like Warblers, Black naped blue flycatcher stuck in the web and unable
to free themselves. Signature spiders also provide interesting viewing.
Hunting spiders like Wolf spiders, Crab spiders, Lyux spiders are also
Tadoba is an excellent place for the nature lover as with permission and a guide in tow, one can walk through the thick forest filled with wonderful sounds, smells and colours.
Crocodile Breeding Centre :
Out of the three Indian crocodiles, the Marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), the Salt-water crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) and the Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), only the Marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) is found in Maharashtra. This species was common in the State few decades ago and most of the lakes, rivers and reservoirs had sizable populations of these crocodiles. A survey indicated that the species was on the verge of extinction and its habitat was confined to more protected lakes and reservoirs in Sanctuary and National Park.
Mugger or Marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustris)
In order to build up sizable population of Muggers under controlled conditions i.e. by hatching the wild laid eggs and rearing the hatchlings, till they attain appropriate sizes to fend for themselves when released back into the wild, to augment the already depleted stocks in nature, Tadoba Crocodiles project became operational on November 5, 1977. The centre was very successful and many lakes and waterbodies including Tulsi lake in Mumbai were stocked with crocodiles from the breeding farm. By 1994 as the breeding centre had met its objectives and was closed.
Tadoba Lake : Situated in the heart of Tadoba National Park is a 120 hectare water body, called Tadoba Lake. This perennial water body is the main source of water in the drier months. A motorable road runs along the perimeter of the lake along which a leisurely stroll can provide excellent wildlife viewing. Two watch towers have also been erected for observing wildlife. Adivasis carry sacred water of Tadoba lake to sprinkle on their crops during rainy season, as they believe that it prevent and protects their crops from any pest attack.
How To Reach : Nearest Town : Chandrapur - 45 kms (28 miles) Railway Station : Chandrapur - 45 kms (28 miles) Airport : Nagpur 205 km ( 127.4 miles) via Chandrapur By Road : Entry into the park is from Moharli (Khatoda gate) and Chimur. State transport buses are available from Chandrapur. Taxi's/ Jeeps are also available at Nagpur and Chandrapur. Timings The park is open for visitors throughout the year. Excursions are permitted only by daylight i.e. sunrise to sunset. Official guide is compulsory for all excursions. The best time is early morning and late afternoons.
Best Time to Visit : The park is a typical Dry deciduous forest of Central India and has three major seasons - the rainy, the cold and the hot. The park blooms with intense green vegetation and different kinds of insects on the outburst of monsoon in mid June which prevails till late September. Because of the thick undergrowth, visibility is poor. Winter (November - February), is the best season of the year. The day temperature ranges between 25°-30°C (77°-86°F). Vegetation is green and atmosphere is pleasant. Though summer ( March - June) in Tadoba is harsh, with day temperatures souring upto 47°C (117°F) at times, it is the best season for serious mammal tracking as water supply is limited and visibility is the greatest. Machan (watch towers) give excellent opportunity for wildlife viewing and photography. Most of the people prefer to visit Tadoba between December-February.
A stay of 3-4 days is advisable. However
mid December to first week of January is to be avoided as it coincides
with the winter session of the State Legislature at Nagpur and the place
is swarming with representatives of the people and bookings may also not
Cottage and Camping Facilities :
The tourist complex is on the banks of a lake which is scenic surrounded by thick forests, giving it a certain etheral quality. Rest houses, Guest house, Holiday home and a Youth hostel are available for visitors on prior reservations with Dy. Conservator of forest between 10.00 to 17.00 hrs on working day. Guest House Double occupancy, three suites are available. Rest House Two suites of four beds each are available. Holiday Home Three family blocks are available. Youth Hostel One dormitory of thirty-six beds is available. Canteen facility is leased to a private contractor for providing light refreshments and meals to the visitors on advance intimation at reasonable cost.
Interesting Nature Trail Routes :
Reception centre to Vasant bandhara : Involves walking uphill, interesting terrain, lairs of bear, leopards and tiger can be visited.
Reception centre to Panchdhara (5 kms one way) : A good walk to an excellent water hole - the site of a check dam, there is a good hide, tiger movement is significant around this area.
Reception centre to Jamunbadi (5 kms one way) : Walk through grassland, open forest and some through thick forest.
Reception centre - lake round along sasa road (3 kms one way) : Gets you a good feel of the forest, though a short one. The black naped hare is common with a nature trail route also named sasa road. All destinations except Vasant bandhara is accessible by vehicles preferably jeeps.
There is a forest department bus which goes on select routes, usually around Jamunbadi.
Machan (Watch towers) :
Panchadhara Machan : Tadoba has four machans where one could do animal watching specially at dusk located at the Panchadara water hole, Vasant Bhandara water hole and two around the lake.
For Additional Information :
Dy. Conservator of Forest Tadoba National Park, Chandrapur, Maharashtra, India Tel. : 91-7172-3414
This material was complied by Prof. Sudhakar Solomonraj, Ms. Swati Cowlagi and Mr. Kalpesh Shroff with the help of other parklovers : Mr. Ramakant Gurav of Nature Lovers Please send your comments to email@example.com or at the following address : Mr. Kalpesh Shroff, 55, Chandrabhuvan, 1st Carpenter Street, C.P. Tank, Mumbai- 400 004, India. Tel : 91-22-3852208
to work on -- Make a pond
Thursday, November 27 1997 Indian Express
After the rains, water becomes scarce. This scarcity however affects mainly wildlife which is dependant on the rains for water. So, constructing a pond will be a good idea to provide water for animals. A pond will be useful for birds who need water to drink and bathe in and will also provide a home for many other creatures. Plan your pond carefully, as location is very important. Shaded ponds under trees fill with leaves, so choose a sunny spot. The pond will be a focal point for birds so find a place where you can watch quietly.
Ponds need a robust lining to hold water. Glass fibre or concrete can be used but it is easier to buy a flexible but thick rubber and plastic sheet. Then you can build a pond as big as you like in any shape you want. Good quality material will last, while cheap polythene will weaken and leak.
Use pegs and string to mark out the pond shape. Dig a hole for your pond measuring 120 x 150 cm and 30 cm deep (measurements can vary proportionately, if needed). Remove sharp objects from the bottom and edges of the hole, then completely line it with a thick layer of newspaper or an old carpet. Or use a five cm layer of sand. Line your pond with rubber or plastic sheets measuring 250x280 cm to allow for the depth of the pond and to overlap the edges , when filled with water which pulls the liner down and moulds it to the shape of your pond.
Now fill your pond with water and cover the edges of the liner with soil and stones to give it a more natural look. If more hard-wearing edges are desired use concrete- paving stones.
Let the pond settle for a week or two before planting in and around it. Decide where and how you are going to plant. Some plants grow faster then others and are better confined to pots or baskets in a small pond. If you intend to plant directly into the soil rather than into baskets, make sure the edges can take 15 to 20 cm of soil and use heavy soil free from manure. Then plant submerged plants and emergents such as Vallisneria, Hygrophila, Cabomba, Amazon Sword Plant, Duckweeds, Water Lettuce and Hydrilla keep the water clear and aerated. Emergents like Water Lillies, Lotus and Cattail Reeds are best planted in containers.
Never dig up wild plants. Buy them from garden centres or aquarium shops. Collect them from friends, neighbours and others who have garden ponds.Leave the pond to settle for about a week before introducing animal life. You may need some water snails to control algae, and perhaps some fish such as Gold Fish, Koi, Black Molly and Red Swordtails.
You can watch your own pond improve as plants grow and new creatures find it and move in. Insects such as dragonflies can lay their eggs inside the pond water, if possible try to observe their life cycle stages.
Observe the same for fish and frogs. Observe the feeding bebehaviour of snails. Birds will love your little pond. Keep a record of birds and other animals visiting your pond. Moreover sitting next your pond and observing pond life is one of most enchanting hobbies which you can develop.
Copyright © 1997 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.
management and scientific authorities in India
CITES Management Authority for India
Main Management Authority #1
Wildlife Preservation, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India
Paryavaran Bhawan (1st Floor) CGO Complex, Lodi Road NEW DELHI - 110003
Tel:010 9111 4362785 Fax:010 9111 4360678 Telex:w 66185 doe in E-mail:CABLE: PARYAVARAN NEW DELHI
Main Management Authority #2
Ministry of Environment and Forests Government of India
Paryavaran Bhawan (4th Floor) CGO Complex, Lodi Road NEW DELHI - 110003
Tel:010 9111 4361509 Fax:010 9111 4360678 Telex:w 66185 doe in E-mail:CABLE: PARYAVARAN NEW DELHI
The competence of this authority is not specified.
Project Tiger Bikaner House, Barrack No. 5 Shahjahan Road NEW DELHI - 110011
Tel:010 9111 4389645/4384428 Fax:010 9111 4360678 Telex:w-66185 doe in E-mail:CABLE: PARYAVARAN NEW DELHI
This Authority is competent for all wildlife items from the following States/Territories:
Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Bihar, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, West Bengal.
Wildlife Preservation Eastern Region
2nd M.S.O. Building (6th Floor) 234/4 A.J.C. Bose Road Nizam Palace CALCUTTA - 700020 Tel:010 9133 478698
This Authority is competent for all wildlife items originating from the following States/Territories:
Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Pondicherry, Orissa, Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
Wildlife Preservation Southern Region
2/C/5, Brownestone Apartments Mahalingapuram MADRAS 600034 Tel:010 9144 8253977
This Authority is competent for all wildlife items originating from the following States/Territories:
Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Chandigarh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and only the worked ivory from Jaipur (Rajasthan).
Wildlife Preservation Northern Region
Bikaner House, Barrack No. 5 Shahjahan Road NEW DELHI Tel:010 9111 4384556 Fax:010 9111 4360678 Telex:w-66185 doe in
E-mail:CABLE: PARYAVARAN NEW DELHI
Botanical Survey of India
P-8, Brabourne Road CALCUTTA - 700001 Tel:010 9133 254912/259330/253881 E-mail:CABLE: BOTSURVEY CALCUTTA
Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute
Post Bag No. 1912 COCHIN - 682018 Tel:010 91484 31989 31867 Telex:cn 435 in E-mail:CABLE: CADALMIN COCHIN
Zoological Survey of India
"M" Block, New Alipore CALCUTTA - 700053 Tel:010 9133 269248/494893 Telex:021 8127 E-mail:CABLE: ZOOLOGY CALCUTTA
This Authority is competent for all wildlife items originating from the following States/Territories:
Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Dadra-Nagar Haveli, Rajasthan (except worked ivory from Jaipur).
Wildlife Preservation Western Region
11, Air Cargo Complex Sahar BOMBAY - 400099 Tel:010 9122 6328529
and literature about Maharashtra's Wildlife : Part Two
Field Guides : Birds
Ali Salim and Ripley Dillon S., Handbook of the birds of the Indian subcontinent (Compact Edition), BNHS, 198?.
Ali Salim and Ripley Dillon S., Pictorial Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, BNHS, 1995
Ali Salim, The Book of Indian Birds, BNHS, 12th edition, 1996, Rs. 395
Grewal Bikram, Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, Gulmohur Press, 1995, Rs. 425
Woodcock, Martin, Collins Handguide to the Birds of India
Whitaker Romulus, Common Indian Snakes, Macmillan Co. Of India Ltd., 1978
Deoras P.J., Snakes of India, National Book Trust, 1991, Rs. 36
Daniel J.C., Book of Indian Reptiles, BNHS, 1983
Smith M.A., The Fauna of British India, Ceylon and Burma, including the whole of the Indo Chinese sub-region. Reptilia and Ambhibia Vol. 3, reprinted by Natraj Publishers, 1943, Rs. 250: Still the most useful book for field identification of Indian snakes.
Prater S. H., The Book of Indian Animals, BNHS,1971
Haribal Meena, Butterflies of Sikkim, , 1991
Kehimkar Issac, Common butterflies of India, Oxford/WWF, 1991
Information on National parks
IUCN, Nature Reserves of the Himalaya and the Mountains of Central Asia,IUCN,1993
Sinclair et al, Insight Guides: Indian Wildlife, Apa Publications, 1991
|Management and Scientific Organisations
for India (including Maharashtra's) wildlife :
Wildlife Institute of India
In the last half century, India's once rich biodiversity has become considerably depleted. Rapid human and livestock population increase and a rather lopsided distributive development pattern have marginalized or unjustly exploited the country's bountiful wilderness areas so that the species richness and the range of habitat types that the country used to boast is today highly eroded and fragmented. How can this fall be checked and reversed is now a question being pondered over at most forums.
This sense of introspection is an encouraging sign indeed. There are some other encouraging signs as well. For instance, the forest departments, the custodians of forests in the country, no longer see their custody as purely industrial raw material but a vital cog in the ecological wheel for the ultimate and sustained well being of humanity. Such a realization will, in the long run, help overcome the shortcomings and failures of early protective measures to preserve wilderness areas, which still remains one of the most effective ways of conserving the country's biodiversity.
Amidst such a situation, the need was felt for an organization to help and strengthen endeavours for recovery. It was important to have an agency which, while looking at forests holistically, combine their management with conserving their biodiversity and protecting the interests of the people in their vicinity in a manner that would be practical and scientifically sanctioned. Such a thought process led to the setting up of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) at Dehra Dun in 1982 with a mandate to train government and non-government personnel, carry out research, and advise on matters of conservation and management of wildlife resources.
For WII, it was a challenging task, particularly when education of forest management had nothing on wildlife, and wildlife science itself had not yet been established as a subject of any significance in the university education curriculum. With no precedence to go by, WII had to virtually single handedly not only give forest education a wildlife slant but also create and develop the very resources with which it could go about its tasks.
This apparent disadvantage ultimately became the institute's strength because the freshness of approach gave it a strong foundation and prevented its programmes from becoming mere academic exercises. WII's programmes are field based and seek an integration of biological, socio-economic and human aspects of large regional landscapes. As a result, wildlife conservation today means not just providing protection mainly to a few splendid species but that it be holistic and have considerations for humans living in the vicinity as well.
WII's research projects being conducted in field sites across the length and breadth of the country are the primary sources of scientific information to help conservation. They are also the means of keeping the institute's faculty abreast of current field situations and the latest technology.
In its endeavours, WII has had the benefit of international and bilateral collaborations for institutional building, faculty development, infusion of modern technology and creation of a scientific infrastructure. These collaborations are worked out with wildlife organizations, scientific institutions and universities at the national as well.
WII was accorded autonomy in April 1986, which furthered its pace of growth. With many countries in south and south-east Asia region regularly sending their personnel to its training programmes, WII is already considered an important regional centre for training and education in wildlife management and conservation.
In seeking to fulfil its mandate, WII has set itself the following tasks :
Train managers and biologists for protected area management and wildlife research;
Train education and extension specialists for protected areas so as to get public support for wildlife conservation;
Provide orientation courses for those involved in landuse management;
Conduct and coordinate applied wildlife research and evolve relevant techniques suited to Indian conditions;
Create a database for building up a wildlife information system employing modern computerized analytical techniques; and
Provide advisory and consultancy services
to central and state governments, universities, research institutions and
other official and non-official agencies.
bell tolls for the Tiger
(Background : extracts from Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA's) report 'The Political Wilderness - India's Tiger Crisis' copyright EIA, 1996)
• The primary factor threatening the Indian tiger, its habitat and other wildlife, is the complete lack of political will on the part of the Prime Minister of India's office to act. Expert committee reports recommending strong, effective action are filed away on Ministry shelves. The Indian Board for Wildlife - supposedly India's highest wildlife advisory body chaired by the Prime Minister - has not met for eight years.
• Poaching for bones for Chinese medicine, for skins, penises, teeth and nails is responsible for the death of at least one tiger each day in India. Poachers and dealers, when they are occasionally apprehended, are routinely released on bail and re-offend.
• Tiger Reserves, National Parks and Sanctuaries can no longer be seen as ''Protected Areas.'' Economic liberalisation has opened all areas to development and tiger habitat across India is being encroached upon, polluted and destroyed by industrial concerns.
• Committed conservation staff are treated with complete indifference. They are poorly trained, poorly equipped, and many go long periods without pay. Wildlife positions are often regarded as ''punishment postings.'' In some areas the situation is so bad that some of the staff have no boots and are stranded at guard posts because of lack of transportation. Forest Department elephants have been found starving with some of them having suspected cases of TB due to malnutrition.
• The Government's Project Tiger has lost its direction and failed to deal with the various crises as they have developed. At the time of going to print, the post of director of Project Tiger had lain vacant for two months because the Prime Minister had not signed the necessary documents for the new director to be appointed.
• Other wildlife trade is also out of control in India including the trade in leopard skins, elephant ivory and rhino horn. India is also the main consumer of the protected and endangered Tibetan Antelope. India has failed to crack down on illegal sales of the wool from these animals (known as shahtoosh) by the Government of Kashmir and private dealers.
• The solutions to this crisis are known
within India, have been repeatedly expressed by Indian tiger experts and
have been accepted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests expert committees.
They await implementation.
IBWL member Bittu Sehgal reports that the Board met on July 11 in New Delhi, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, and with Minister of Environment Saifuddin Soz and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces General Roy Choudhury attending. Bittu wrote (Editor's note: this has been edited for brevity) :
''Among the many, many things we talked about (getting the Home Ministry and the Army to help us protect the tiger in particularly critical areas, protecting wetlands, stopping the illegal 'kidnapping' of animals from our forests for zoos and circuses), was the need to set aside six per cent of India's total land mass for wildlife and nature. Everyone, including Prime Minister Gujral, agreed that this was not too much to ask.
''We pointed out, that this six per cent possibly supplies us with around 30 per cent of all our fresh water needs. If these forests go, in other words, our water sources may dry up and India may face droughts and famines every year. Saving the forests thus not only benefits the tiger... but also millions of humans.
''Just before the two-hour-long meeting was concluded the Prime Minister said: "I commit myself to the objective of saving wildlife and the various issues we have discussed here today. I have instructed my office to work closely with the Ministry of Environment to tackle the tiger crisis.
''I think you will agree that was a very
positive thing for him to say! It is not going to be easy, but I think
this is the very first time in six years that our Prime Minister's office
has made such specific promises.''
Editor's Comment... - Nirmal Ghosh
1. The tiger indeed lost ground during the crucial years of neglect after the assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. But there is hope in the leadership of Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, whose willingness to break through old taboos (as in the Indo-Pakistan relationship) could be a good sign for wildlife conservation. See the NEWSFLASH on the IBWL meeting.
2. The mention of economic liberalisation and the pressures of industrialisation is valid, but I'm a little uncomfortable about putting the debate in those terms, because it implies a squaring off of ''liberal'' market-driven economics and the old, largely unsuccessful socialist protectionism.
Market-driven economies may not be the best thing around, but this environment is a given, it is going to happen whether we like it or not. We should therefore redefine the parameters of the debate and then seek a solution using the tools of the market itself. Our conservation establishment (and some NGOs) needs to modernise its approach.
3. The pathetic state of wildlife protection staff. Yes, this is a real shame. It is nothing new, but has been going on for years, which makes it even more shameful--and more importantly a symptom of what has been going wrong. The system is not working well but the government refuses to acknowledge it. Yet the government, even while knowing it is on a slippery slope, will also not give up control. Isn't this what they teach you not to do in management schools?
Some time last year I heard that the guard at the Chilla gate at Rajaji National Park had not been paid in five months. That's just one small example. I'm sure this may not apply to this particular guard, but think of the effect it has on people. Do you think a guard in that sort of position will not turn a blind eye to a poacher when given a bottle of rum and Rs 1000.00 ?
As the report says, the solutions to all the problems are well known. It's a question of picking the ball up and running with it.
PA Update 21 was prepared by Pankaj Sekhsaria
and Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh. Illustrations by Peeyush Sekhsaria Several
news items were accessed from Centre for Science and Environment's Green
File, but have been credited to their original sources.
Apartment 5, Shri Dutta Krupa, 908 Deccan Gymkhana, Pune 411 004, Maharashtra, India. Tel/Fax: 020-5654239 (pl. note change of number)
(c) Maharashtra Vanyapraani Mitra Parishad /April 5, 2000
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