|Internet Bulletin : Issue Number 5
April 10, 2000
Wildlife of Maharashtra
to this issue
Killing Them Softly -- World Bank Development Projects Push Indian Tigers to the Brink
dismembered network of Sanctuaries and National Parks
By Bittu Sahagal
While the threat to India's wildlife from
poaching has received justifiable attention, a more insidious and potentially
permanent threat remains virtually unrecognised. I refer to the dismemberment
of contiguous forests by industrial and commercial projects that have the
Government of India's tacit approval. These include mines, dams, canals,
polluting industries, new highways, thermal plants and several other urban
constructions including tourism projects, townships and resettlement sites.
Added to this clutch of disturbances is the orgy of timber industries that
continue their activities surreptitiously in the face of Supreme Court
orders to the contrary. This is a direct result of a lack of vigilance
and enforcement at the State Level, particularly in Madhya Pradesh where
more than half the 10,000 saw mills in operation are illegal. The same
is true for Tripura where just 40 per cent of the 86 saw mills are licensed.
Virtually all commercial use of forests is categorised by planners as 'development' . However, it is the mandate of the Indian Board for Wildlife to draw focus on the hidden, but exceedingly high, cost of such infrastructures of commerce. The enclosed map may give you a quick overview of the magnitude of the problem. The data contained therein is by no means complete. It represents only a tiny fraction of the actual damage inflicted each year .
In your capacity as Chairman of the IBWL it is imperative that you ask for a White Paper to be prepared on the true State of India's Environment, particularly its impending loss of wildlife species and habitats. Our permanent infrastructures of survival - rivers, wetlands, grasslands, forests, mountain slopes and coastlines - are losing out to the short-lived infrastructures of commerce. If this trend continues unchecked, we will be forced to confront water famines and food crises of unthinkable dimensions. Planners currently treat the Sanctuaries and National Parks we wish to protect with scant respect. They believe these to be of little value to the nation other than to house exotic but 'useless' species of plants and animals. These are, in fact, our water banks and genetic vaults... all that stands between India's ecological food security and widespread famines of the kind so common in sub-Saharan Africa. Consider the scenario that confronts us today: The tiger, our national animal, is being killed at the rate of one a day at the hands of poachers working in tandem with international traders. At least one elephant and two leopards lose their lives to the same network every day. Rhinos, lions, lesser cats and birds such as the Great Indian Bustard and Bengal Florican are faring no better.
The actual extinction of India's endangered wildlife species, however, is more likely to come about thanks to the rapacity of developers, than the avarice of poachers. The enclosed map and its explanatory notes plot selected wildlife areas, highlighting those threatened by commercial projects. The visual is intended merely to underscore the dismemberment of India. The marked projects represent only those that have come to public notice. To obtain a full picture, it is necessary to instruct the Ministry of Environment and Forests to make the data in its files available to us. May I suggest that a small team be appointed by you to undertake this task and report back to you within three months. At the end of this period, I would urge that you set up the necessary defence mechanisms to stem the rot that has been eating away at natural India at an alarming pace for several years now.
Bittu Sahgal Member,
Indian Board for Wildlife Editor,
602, Maker Chambers V, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021
Fax: 022-2874380 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Wildlife Hotspots
Andaman and Nicobar Islands Andhra Pradesh Arunachal Pradesh Assam Bihar Gujarat
Jammu and Kashmir Karnataka Kerala Madhya Pradesh Maharashtra Meghalaya Mizoram
Tamil Nadu Uttar
Pradesh West Bengal
Andaman and Nicobar Islands: Years of timber felling, coupled with indiscriminate road building through Jarawa lands and the resettlement of refugees on rain forest soils has taken a vicious toll of the island ecosystem. Instead of seeking to reverse this trend, a wholly unviable project to lay a railroad line from Port Blair to Diglipur in the North Andamans has been put forward. More timber is being extracted from these fragile forests today, rather than less. Other problems caused by commercial projects include plans to introduce exotic fish species and red oil palm plantations which have already leached toxic pesticides on to the coral reefs.
Andhra Pradesh, Nallamalai Forests: The Andhra Pradesh State Highways Project currently threatens several wildlife reserves. The alignment of one of the routes has been shifted south of the Nagarjunasagar Tiger Reserve, but even the altered alignment passes through prime tiger habitat. The road in question passes through the reserved forests in the Nandyal and Atmakur Range in the Nallamalais, between and to the south of the road connecting Nandyal to Kurnool. TAhe recently concluded census suggests the presence of between 30-40 tigers here. The MoEF has already granted environmental clearance to the project, however, it has not established any monitoring mechanism to ensure compliance of the terms of clearance. If this habitat is dissected, the future of the tigers in the Nallamalai range is bleak. This areas also suffers massive bamboo extraction for paper mills. Several canals and rail lines cut through forested areas and thus amputate its continuity.
Arunachal Pradesh, Namdapha Tiger Reserve: A road connecting India to Myanmaar is being built even through the project has no environmental clearance. No environmental impact analysis has been conducted. This is a seismic zone in which several dams are being planned in the Brahmaputra valley. Each dam will result in the destruction of irreplaceable biodiversity.
Assam, Kaziranga National Park: This is the last home of the onehorned rhino. The downlisting of the elephant at the recently concluded CITES meeting places the reserve in even more danger than ever before as poachers are bound to increase the intensity of their activities. Very crucial extensions asked for by the Park authorities have been denied for several years and this has led to these vital corridors and lands being encroached and degraded by commercial interests and villagers. Pesticides including organochlorines are released directly into the swamps by tea estates and this will have a long term impact on the breeding success of several species. Apart from this the destruction of delicate food chains may cause problems that have not been anticipated. It is necessary to consider acquiring property from tea estate owners in the immediate vicinity of the Park so that this land can be added to the Park boundary. Another serious problem is the on-going investment in monoculture inland fisheries. By pumping in special feeds and by reducing the biodiversity of the water bodies surrounding Kaziranga, the fisheries department is unleashing unknown consequences into the aquatic ecology of the region. This park needs to be closely monitored to ensure that the staff actually get the many benefits and facilities budgeted for them. In the past funds for this purpose were diverted elsewhere by the State Department.
Assam, Manas Tiger Reserve: The insurgency of the past few years has already taken a terrible toll by virtually wiping out the rhinos of Manas. Today land grabs, supported by populist movements further threatens the park. This World Heritage Site in danger is a blot on the fair reputation of India as a country which values its biodiversity. At least as much blame must be laid on our neglect of Manas, as we might place on the problems of insurgency. The road project proposed by Bhutan must under no circumstances be agreed to as this will be the coup de grace for a biodiversity hotspot which houses over 19 endangered species including the hispid hare, golden langur and the pygmy hog, in addition to the tiger and elephant.
Bihar, Dalma Sanctuary: The Subarnarekha Multipurpose Project authorities are building the 1,500 crore Chandil dam in the Singhbum district of Bihar, financed by the World Bank . It is designed to benefit the township of Jamshedpur. Apart from the massive ecological damage to be caused by the project which may never be documented, the Subarnarekha irrigation canal we know will cut across the Dalma Sanctuary. Several thousand trees have already been cut inside the Sanctuary and this alone might destabilise this critical elephant habitat by disconnecting their migratory routes.
Bihar, Palamau Tiger Reserve: The Horilong U/G (Mine) Project seeks diversion of 11.92 hectares of forest land from inside the Palamau Tiger Reserve. The DCF has been prevailed upon to ask that the Project Tiger Boundary be redrawn to exclude this area. The MoEF fact sheet confirms that the dry sal forests of the area adjoining the Palamau Tiger Reserve to the extent of 794.19 hectares will be mined. This forest is already threatened by submergence by the Kotku Dam. Recent investigations reveal that the State Government has been exceedingly lax in enforcing the Wildlife (Protection) Act and this has led to massive poaching of both wildlife and timber. This tiger reserve is severely threatened.
Bihar, Valmiki Tiger Reserve: A railway embankment built without environmental clearance caused major flooding when water courses were blocked. Over 5,300 trees are estimated to have been lost as a result. New Roads being built and a bridge across the border in Nepal threaten to 'develop' this already damaged Sanctuary. Poaching here is reaching such proportions that forest staff find themselves hopelessly out-numbered and out-gunned. Illegal mineral and timber extraction is commonplace. This is a very key watershed and could well return to health provided the requisite political will were exercised to save the Park.
Bihar, Hazaribagh National Park: This vital link corridor has been christened the '1,000 Tigers Ecosystem' on account of the fact that it is linked with forests which support at least 1,000 tigers between the states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa. Here coal mines being run by Coal India threaten to disconnect vital corridors. With the help of World Bank finance, over 495 coal mines will be added to those currently being expanded. It defies reason that the environment impact studies do not even mention the corridor links for tigers and elephants in this forested belt. The damage that will be inflicted on the North Karanpur Valley is almost too large to contemplate with 20 more strip mines scheduled to be added to the two currently being operated. This project, when combined with the commercial forestry operations in the Baghelkhand (Neck of the Tiger) forests will lead to the local extinction of tigers. The fabled Bastar forests which connect Madhya Pradesh and Orissa will be forever lost if the Coal India project is allowed to proceed.
Gujarat, Gir National Park and Lion Sanctuary: is threatened by encroachments including a mining proposal by Ambuja Cements Limited within five kms. of the sanctuary border. Excessive tourism including a five star facility in the very heart of the forest further threaten to disturb the ecology of the forest. A major temple complex is attempting to regularise its encroachment of land in the heart of the forest. A railway link running through the lion habitat takes a regular toll of lions and other wildlife which die on the tracks. This line must be closed and alternative alignments established. The forests surrounding Girnar which also support around 15 lions, are fast losing their tree cover. A ropeway project threatens hundreds of trees to enable tourists to access temples.
Gujarat, Marine National Park, Gulf of Kutchh: The Reliance Petroleum complex has been allowed to lay a pipeline through this fragile habitat, against the advice of naturalists and environmentalists. There is no way to absolutely guarantee that oil leaks will not take place and it is necessary therefore to obtain a written assurance from the project authority that they will pay for any resultant damage and recovery costs on account of their operations. Ships that anchor nor far from the park routinely wash their holds at sea and the oil and chemical contamination that results has already been seen on the coral formations. A host of other industrial projects have come up in the near vicinity of the Marine National Park. This includes a series of cement factories and a major chemical plant belonging to the Tata group. Not only do these units release deadly toxins into the marine ecosystem, but they also discharge water at temperatures which may be higher than 6 to ten degrees centigrade higher than the ambient levels of sea water.
Gujarat, Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary, Kutchh: This was denotified to make way for the Sanghi Cement Factory. Despite flagrant violations of the law, this company was able to obtain permission from the Ministry of Environment and Forests to proceed with its plans. Endangered species such as chinkara and houbara bustard have already suffered. In a replay of events, the company went ahead with construction of a road and jetty which destroyed precious mangrove habitats and scrub forests all the way to the Kharo Creek, believed to be frequented by Dugongs. This incident has sent a very wrong signal to industrialists in India that the government is more interested in economics than ecology. The matter is still in court, but whatever the outcome the credibility of the Government of India, its Ministry of Environment and its technical advisors has been severely damaged.
Gujarat, Rann of Kutchh Wild Ass Sanctuary, Kutchh: This ancient wilderness has suffered a variety of traumas over the years including poaching, an army field firing range, deforestation of the bets or islands upon which most wildlife is dependent for food and shelter and also uncontrolled expansion of salt works. Now another threat looms large and that is the proliferation of shrimp ponds, chemical factories and a proposal to cut a network of canals as a part of the Narmada Project which may never see the waters of the controversial project, but will destroy the Wild Ass Sanctuary anyway. The canal system will cut animals off from their food supply leaving them to starve to death unless the MoEF steps in to ensure that the canal system is not started until the very last stage in the unlikely event that the project is completed.
Jammu & Kashmir, Dal Lake: Home to several migratory species of waterfowl, the Dal Lake is dying. Deforestation in the catchment area has led to siltation of such magnitude that the lake size has been reduced by over one third in the past decade. This include the cutting down of over 4,000 trees inside the Salim Ali National Park to make way for a golf course. The sewage from the city of Srinagar and from house boats also pollutes the lake and people and official government agencies have reclaimed and encroached on the lake area. Red bloom, Eulena rubra, covers a vast portion of the lake, choking it and altering its ecology. The Nagin lake too is becoming degraded with duckweed taking over its surface during the spring months. The Dal Development Project's de-weeding operations are more decorative than effective. Nothing less than social reform, coupled with solid scientific advice will allow the lake to be restored. J&K, The Dachigam National Park: This exquisite Himalayan haven is being ruined by a combination of factors, some which had been identified over a decade ago. To begin with, in the confusion of social unrest, virtually no protection exists in the upper meadows which are crucial to the survival of the Hangul deer. Last year over 10,000 livestock were grazed in Sangargulu, thus depriving the Hangul deer of much needed nourishment required for them to survive the long winter. The government sheep farm and trout hatchery which should have been moved out a long time ago, still operate, though they both suffer financial loss and cannot justify their existence. It has been reported that security forces regularly hunted wild animals including hangul deer till very recently. Armed insurgents also had a free run of the Park around three or four years ago. All this has resulted in a drastic fall in the Hagul population. The status of bears and leopards is not known, but we must presume they are no better off.
Karnataka, Kadur Forests, Chikmagalur: A man animal conflict situation has been created thanks to the denotification of forests in 1992 to make way for large-scale stone quarrying. Leopards that have been unable to hunt because of disturbance of their prey base have begun to leave the forest confines. Several attacks on humans and livestock have resulted and the response of the Forest Department has been to go on a virtual killing spree. In March 1997 a tiger was killed near Balele village just outside the Nagarhole National Park. Karnataka, Karwar Forest Division: The government first wanted to displace communities from the Kali Hydroelectric Project and the Kaiga Nuclear Plant and resettle them in forest land. When asked whether the area was significant from a wildlife point of view, the Chief Wildlife Warden after approving the felling of 40,000 trees replied -- "No. But tiger, panther, Malabar Squirrel are present in the area." This only goes to show how much political pressure is brought to bear on officers against whom departmental actions are initiated if they do not 'cooperate' with the political decisions of the day.
Karnataka, Kudremukh National Park: Mining for iron ore in this tiger habitat affects both the Kudremukh and Bhadra protected areas, but was largely being conducted outside the protected area. The Ministry of Environment, however, recently approved prospective mining inside in the Kudremukh National Park. This violates the spirit of the Forest Conservation Act and even the orders of the Supreme Court. The Bhadra river which flows through the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary is being so badly polluted as a consequence that its waters may not be available to downstream for their everyday use. According to company officials the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd. Intends to resume mining operations at Nellibedu near Chikmagalur on land measuring 310 hectares.
Karnataka, Sualkadu Block Reserved Forest: After having violated the FC Act, the State Government came to the Centre for clearance for the Mulki Dam Project. When asked whether the area was significant from the wildlife point of view the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests replied- "No. But tiger and panther are present in the Sualkadu Block Reserve Forest."
Kerala, Eravikullam National Park: Despite a Kerala High Court order banning the planting of wattle plantations within three kms. of the Park borders, a fresh proposal to plant eucalyptus on ecologically vital grassland habitats has emerged. The Kerala Forest Department must be asked to account for its inexplicable and consistent actions which mitigate against the most basic biodiversity imperatives. This region is one of Kerala's most threatened wildlife habitats and is closely linked to Perambikulam and other key elephant corridors. With other elephant habitats such as the forest which are to be submerged by the Pooyamkutty Dams also threatened, the crossfire between poaching and habitat destruction seems poised to usher in local extinctions for the pachyderms in the very near future.
Kerala, Perambikullam Wildlife Sanctuary: The Kerala Electricity Board is promoting the Adirapalli Hydroelectric Project which involves building a 23 m. high dam to diver water from the Poringalkuttu left bank project through a tunnel and two penstock pipes to a power house. This will adversely affect elephant movements in the Vazhachal Forest Division. This is one of India's highest elephant density habitats and is a crucial corridor between Perambikulam and Malayattur.
Kerala, Silent Valley National Park: This rain forest was saved from a hydroelectric project, but recent reports suggest that the Kerala government has allowed contiguous and adjacent valleys to be deforested. There is also some talk of reviving the old hydroelectric project. Poaching is a serious problem and to this has been added the uncontrolled extraction of medicinal plants and herbs from adjoining areas.
Madhya Pradesh, Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve: The Sanjay Thermal Power plant in Pali Birsingpur (Suhagpur Reserve Forest) dumps flyash directly into the Johila river which empties into the Son. The 1993 census reveals the presence of around eight tigers here. The Bandhsagar Dam across the Son threatens to cut off the corridor linking Bandhavgarh with the Sanjay National Park all the way to Mirzapur toward the east. To the south, the Maikal range is being ripped apart by bauxite mining being undertaken by Balco. To the West the Khetauli Range and Marjadhgarh connects Katni and Mandla through the Umaria corridor. Here Coal India and the Western Coalfields Limited combine to disconnect the corridor. In addition to the above problems, poaching is rampant here and tourism has already taken on industrial proportions, leading to wholly unsustainable disturbance such as Tiger Shows, too many jeeps, crowds at the entrance gate and urbanisation of the village of Tala.
Madhya Pradesh, Madhav National Park: A proposal to construct the Sindh Dam in 1994 did not reveal that the 3,106 hectares of land it required fell inside the Park boundary. This is tiger habitat and the clearance from the Centre was obtained by deception. It must therefore be revoked and the project authority must be made to pay for the restoration of the park, particularly the mining sites which they were allowed to operate.
Madhya Pradesh, Panna Tiger Reserve: A report by the Director Project Tiger, Mr. P.K. Sen confirms that white sandstone mining in the Panna Tiger Reserve. This clearly violates the Forest Conservation Act, but a lack of will on the part of the Madhya Pradesh government to oppose commercial interests is leading to the destruction of this key tiger habitat. Mr. Sen also pointed out that in the nearby Gangau Sanctuary NDMC's diamond mining has encroached on forest lands. The Park is consequently "choked with slurry and polluted water. Overburdens and tailings are being dumped on the boundary of the Reserve and have formed small toxic hills. The World Bank Forestry Project has also added to the problems by financing road widening, which is of no use whatsoever to the forest, but which will greatly disturb its ecology and lead to massive siltation into the Ken river. Mining of granite and diamonds also affects the periphery of the park as over 500 mines are in operation, none of which comply with the most basic environmental guidelines.
Madhya Pradesh, Pench Tiger Reserve: Fishing on a commercial scale is being undertaken in violation of Supreme Court orders. As against permission to 300 individuals against identity cards, over 800 persons are entering the Tiger Reserve without identification through over 20 different routes.
Madhya Pradesh, Shastradhara Turtle habitat, Narmada River: Fresh water turtles have helped keep the waters of the Narmada River pure for eons. Now their nesting sites will be destroyed, along with those of crocodiles and monitor lizards when the waters of the Narmada (Indira) Sagar Dam rise. More than 35,000 hectares of forests including habitats that support tiger, leopard and several other endangered Schedule I species are threatened. By destroying the breeding grounds of river turtles the ecology of the Narmada River will be affected for several kms. up and downstream of Shastradhara, a site that is likened in importance to that available to marine turtles in Bhitarkanika.
Madhya Pradesh, Sitanadi Sanctuary: The Sondur Irrigation Projects seeks diversion of 1,080.22 hectares of land from this vital wildlife habitat. Here more than a third of a million standing trees will be cut down. This is excellent tiger habitat and is the last refuge of the Central Indian wild buffalo. The State Government initially denied that the area was a P.A but a site visit revealed that a huge 529.70 hectare area did indeed fall inside the boundary of the Sanctuary. Such violations must be dealt with firmly and immediately, or else we would be sending a signal to all States that they can violate the law at will.
Maharashtra, Bhimashankar Sanctuary: This is one of the best Western Ghats habitats for the giant squirrel. However, tourism projects which seek to build in the heart of the forest threaten the arboreal ecology of these creatures. Proposed roads through Bhimashankar also threaten the forest, as do development projects designed to cater to the needs of pilgrims who visit the nearby temple complex.
Maharashtra, Borivli National Park: Encroachment of large portions of this water catchment forest by slum lords threatens the water security of Mumbai city. The encroachers have received blatant political support for over a decade and now a court order has instructed the Maharashtra Government to resettle all those who have illegally acquired property on forest lands within 18 months. However, it is clear that feet are being dragged and the necessary resources to offer alternative housing sites may never be offered. This will result in thwarting the court's orders. Other problems include poaching by politically well-connected individuals, expanding tourism facilities and a temple complex and illicit liquor distilling which takes a severe toll of trees which are used as fuel.
Maharashtra, Gautala Autaramghat Wildlife Sanctuary: The Maharashtra government denotified this 261 sq. kms. sanctuary to make way for commercial development of the land. A dry deciduous teak dominated habitat it supports sloth bear, barking deer, wild boar, nilgai and leopard. Nisarga Mitra Mandal, a local organisation, intervened and obtained a stay on the decision on December 23, 1996, with instructions to the Revenue Department to complete its boundary demarcation process. This matter should be taken up with the State Government.
Maharashtra, Kalsubai-Harishchandragadh Sanctuary: This precious forest has been denotified by the Maharashtra Government. It is a vital corridor for the Tansa Sanctuary and it is necessary that this decision be immediately reversed. This denotification has come about to facilitate the construction of the Ghatkar Pump Storage Project. Order for denotification were passed by the SDO Sangamner. The Maharashtra Government letter date February 20, 1997 to the Collector Ahmednagar states that there is no need to present the matter for clearance to the State Assembly. This is bad in law but shockingly the order will be legally valid "till someone challenges the order in court.
Maharashtra, Melghat Tiger Reserve: the Chikaldhara Pump Storage project is coming up in prime tiger habitat on the border of the Melghat Tiger Reserve. Apart from drowning valuable forests, this project will cut new roads, introduce fresh construction and in the process enhance the disturbance in the tiger reserve to unheard of levels. The State government has also taken the ill-advised step of denotifying over 500 sq. kms. of this crucial tiger reserve to make way for timber operations, the construction of a new dam and also to enable quarrying and mining operations. If these dry deciduous forests actually disintegrate, the loss to the nation in terms of watershed degradation will be incalculable. The Sipna and Dolnar rivers, in particular, will become less reliable, as will the ability of the Tapi river to supply water to downstream communities.
Maharashtra, Tadoba Tiger Reserve: A large tract comprising 6548 hectares of forests is under threat for supplying coal for Nippon Denro Ispat's thermal power project. The mining proposal awaits clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act. But senior forest officers in the state say that it threatens the departments Clonal Teak Seed Orchard set up in 1969 and containing "a priceless collection of clones of teak" as well as affecting the reserve and protected forests in Lohara, Baranj and Bandar blocks. Furthermore these are located very close to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve and "mining activities here could spoil the continuous track of forest, severely damaging the habitat of tigers and other wildlife". Roads are also being planned which will dissect this protected area.
Meghalaya, Balpakram National Park: This region is one of the biodiversity hotspots of the subcontinent. The Garo Hills have already suffered major destablilisation on account of deforestation. A plan for limestone mining by the ACC Cement Company threatens a crucial elephant corridor that passes through the Siju Rekwak Sanctuary. A proposal to mine Uranium at Domiasiat compounds the threat of environmental degradation hanging over the people and wildlife of Meghalaya on account of new and dangerous radiation contamination. The Garo Hills, meanwhile, continue to suffer the depredation of armed timber smugglers, said to be working hand in glove with insurrectionists.
Mizoram, Aizwal: The Turial Hydroelectric Project has asked for forest clearance to submerge 53.30 hectares of forested area in which one million trees will be required to be cut. This mega-damage can never possibly be 'compensated' and it is vital that the term compensatory afforestation be abolished from use by the Ministry of Environment which uses this misleading term to justify the destruction of millions of trees by development projects. This is a biodiversity rich area which is contiguous with forests which harbour clouded leopard, tiger, leopard and elephant.
Mizoram, Dampa Tiger Reserve, Aizwal: The Teiri Hydroelectric Project coming up on the western part of the tiger reserve could ultimately destroy the reserve as, apart from the submergence the huge scale of construction will bring with it, entire townships, a labour force of thousands, roads, timber operations, quarrying and digging and other such forest destroying activities. At the time of writing the labour force has already been deployed and they have not been provided any fuelwood alternatives. They therefore obtain supplies from the tiger reserve, an impact that has been predicted months earlier. The damage done to these forests is exacerbated by the fact that local communities practice jhooming and the cycles are becoming shorter with the passage of each year. Affected wildlife includes Hoolock gibbons, tiger, panther and clouded leopard.
New Delhi, Ridge Forest: Encroachments, primarily by well-connected citizens has eaten into this singular wildlife habitat. Bhatti mines were allowed to come up in contravention of wildlife laws. This forest is one of New Delhi's most vital lungs and restoring its pristinity is crucial to the long-term survival and the quality of life of its residents. Unfortunately, the authorities seem only willing to act by wielding their authority against the poor whose houses are often demolished without notice or alternatives being offered. This amounts to tokenism of the worst kind, as it is designed to convince the public at large that 'something is being done' about the 'Ridge Problem'. Meanwhile the farmhouses of the rich and famous are left unscathed. Despite clear orders from the Supreme Court in response to a case filed by Mr. M.C. Mehta, the requisite resources and political will to implement the order has not so far been forthcoming.
Orissa, Balukhand Sanctuary: In the Gada Bangar Reserve Forest area a proposal to develop a large tourism project was shot down a couple of years ago. It seems this idea is once again being mooted. This Balukhand-Konarak Sanctuary forms a contiguous belt within this forest and if the (Rs. 500 crore) project is allowed it will irrevocably damage the fragile coastal ecosystem. Apart from turtles, horseshoe crabs also come ashore here. At tremendous cost a wind-break forest has been planted and protected for years. All this may be sacrificed to make way for multinational tourism companies who wish to exploit its tourism potential by building more than 25 five star hotels, commercial complexes, helipads etc.
Orissa, Chilika Lake: Though the Tatas prawn projects have been cancelled, the Chilika lake continues to be threatened by a mafia of prawn barons in the state. Siltation thanks to upstream deforestation is seriously reducing the size of this brackish water lake which is home to millions of water birds (160 species) and is the source of livelihood for thousands of fisherfolk. Thanks to industrial pollution almost 40 per cent of the brackish water fish that had been recorded 50 years ago can no longer be found here. The wildlife wing of the Orissa Forest Dept. has counted over 150 dolphins in the Chilika Lake. The Nalaban Bird Sanctuary is a particularly favoured spot, but fishing nets and bamboo gheries take a toll of dolphins here each year. Chilika is a national asset and we must augment the States resources and influence decision making to ensure that its ecological health be placed above commerce.
Orissa, Gahirmata Turtle Rookery: Fishing jetties have seriously affected the integrity of the mangrove forests of Bhitarkanika. Now the Tata Iron and Steel plant which is coming up at Gopalpur is poised to unleash a series of ecological problems, many of which will permanently affect wildlife as far away as Bhitarkanika. To begin with, a critical water shed in the area is going to be devastated thanks to the construction of the Pipalpanka Dam in the Ganjam District. This entails the cutting of half-a-million trees including valuable teak in dense forests. The water of this dam is intended to feed the 10 million ton steel plant by way of a 120 kms. pipeline. The construction of 45 metre high embankments along the Rushikulya River in the Soroda Forest range is bound to have an adverse effect on the nesting site of Olive Ridley turtles near the river mouth.
Rajasthan, Jamva Ramgarh Sanctuary: Over 40 marble mines operate inside this sanctuary, most of which were given permission to do so after the sanctuary was declared in 1982. The State Government's track record on wildlife conservation in the past few years has been well below expectation and a special meeting with the Chief Minister in the company of the Chairman of the IBWL might be one way to begin to reverse this trend.
Rajasthan, Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Bharatpur: Major pesticide contamination is affecting the breeding biology of birds, particularly raptors. The pesticides, including the banned DDT and other organochlorines, enter through the water from the Ajan Bund. Tourism has also begun to take on industrial proportions and the litter left behind by such tourists, including large volumes of plastic and other such non-biodegradable garbage, threatens the water quality of the swamps.
Rajasthan, Ranthambhor Tiger Reserve: Mining, a cement factory and new Asian Development Bank-funded roads which have been built right on the border of this threatened forest combine to reduce the habitat available for tigers. Additionally, the Banas river which empties into the Chambal is being increasingly polluted by industrial effluents. As of now there is virtually no monitoring, or control of such destruction, which, when combined with the recent poaching activities may well serve to wipe out the last remaining tigers of Ranthambhor.
Rajasthan, Sariska Tiger Reserve: The industrial-scale mining which is being carried out in this forest, in contravention of Supreme Court orders is a classic example of the lack of political will to protect tigers. Additionally, the road connecting Jaipur to Alwar regularly takes a toll of wildlife and enables poachers to access the very heart of the reserve. Five star hotels coming up at Ajabgarh and being promoted by a Birla Group Company just outside the boundary of the reserve further threatens to commercialise and disturb the forest. These will do the forest considerable harm. The mines and tourism projects all benefit well-connected individuals. This enhances social tensions when villagers are denied access to meet their fodder and fuel needs, while rich and powerful people are allowed to exploit Sariska's commercial potential.
Tamil Nadu, Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve: Construction of the Pykara Ultimate Stage Hydroelectric Project (PUSHEP) is being continued in this forested habitat which houses over 33 per cent of India's wild elephant populations. Three protected areas will be adversely affected including the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. A study conducted by the Bombay Natural History Society suggests that a vital elephant corridor has already been destroyed. This has separated the Nilgiri elephant population into two different sections. This they go on to add will ultimately lead to a genetic decline. A similar impact on tiger populations can be expected. Ironically the economic viability of this project has now been brought into question. It is vital that further damage be prevented and existing damage be ameliorated.
Tamil Nadu, Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve: This is a crucial biodiversity vault which supports tigers, elephants and leopard, among other key endangered species. In the heart of the Sanctuary exists a commercial estate leased by the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation which manages tea, coffee and cardamom plantations. The workers numbering over 10,000 have been supplied with their requirement of fuel wood illegally from the Reserve Forest for decades. Important shola forests have been sacrificed here in violation of the FC Act. In 1995 legal proceedings were launched against the company but not before they had inflicted massive damage to the ecosystem. It is important that the company be directed by the Indian Board for Wildlife to desist from any activity which adversely affects the wildlife of the region. We should also examine the possibility of using the Land Acquisition Act to take back critical connecting forest to prevent their further damage.
Uttar Pradesh, Corbett Tiger Reserve: Tourism projects have proliferated to the extent that they are now affecting the movement of both elephants and tigers in the periphery of the Park. Poaching is also at an all-time high. Ganja collection leads villagers to enter the Park confines and new roads threaten the buffer area. Though this park has the reputation of being well protected, it is in fact very fragile and within a span of a few years decades of protection effort could be reversed. The irrigation department which had promised to return the Kalagadh Complex to the Forest Department has declined to do so and this is leading to the influx of a completely new crop of people who arrive in search of land and housing.
Uttar Pradesh, Rajaji National Park: This vital elephant corridor is being pillaged by a complex series of intrusions. The very first tragedy to strike this tiger and elephant habitat was the Forest Department's action in promoting eucalyptus, teak and other monocultures decades ago. Subsequently the siting of heavy industries such as BHEL and IDPL in this forest had predictable results. An army ammunition dump was also sited here, not because of any strategic considerations, but simply because the land was available. The most damaging of all projects, however, was probably the Chilla Canal which runs parallel to the Ganges River for 14 kms. This canal cuts of the migration of elephants between Motichur and Chilla. There is a narrow one kms. corridor which is still possible to re-establish. However, one of the first steps we need to take would be to move the ammo dump and the other private land holders. For this, alternative sites should be found and offered. As of now a battle royal is raging between those who blame gujjars, baan workers and taungiya villagers for the woes of the forest... and the villagers themselves who blame the deterioration on urban demands placed on the forest by Dehra Dun and Haridwar towns, industries the rail link to Dehra Dun. The fact that a new District Headquarters is being set up on the very border of Rajaji near Haridwar, only goes to prove that the local communities are not far from wrong in their assessment.
West Bengal, Buxa, Jaldapara and Gorumara: The Sankosh Hydro Project which seeks to divert water through the Farakka Barage will devastate these three critical wildlife habitats. The canals are designed to dissect the core area of the Buxa Tiger Reserve. Some of the most highly endangered species in India including elephants, rhinos and tigers will be placed in jeopardy. Damage will also be caused to the Jaldapara and Goruma Sanctuaries (the only ones which have rhinos in West Bengal). The Mahananda Sanctuary and parts of the connecting corridors of Jamduaar Reserve Forest of Kachugaon Forest Div. in Assam which have recently been discovered to be housing Golden Langurs will also be destroyed. The stated objective of the project is to ensure proper flushing of the Calcutta Port, however, even hydrology experts have expressed doubts about the technical viability of this scheme, as have some Ministers in the West Bengal Cabinet. The area is also affected by conversion of natural forests to orange orchards. And in Buxa dolomite mining continues unchecked.
West Bengal, Sundarbans Tiger Reserve: The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is proposing to develop a national waterway 191 kms long through Sundarbans. The project is being promoted to allow deep draft boats carrying cargo and passengers to pass through the Sundarbans area of West Bengal, and Bangladesh. It involves 6,00,000 cubic metres of capital dredging and a further 1,20,000 cubic metres of maintenance dredging each year. The silt will be dumped on the edges of the channels. The Environmental Impact Assessment, states that -- "due to the dredging activity, a complete change in ecosystem is anticipated". It goes on to confirm that -- "as the proposed IWT route passes through the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve, the channels used for the migration of tigers from one hinterland to another will be disturbed. This will also increase the possibilities of attack on human beings by these man-eaters". "The proposed development may lead to further increase in pressure on the already endangered species". The project threatens the delicate mangrove ecosystem and one of the most secure tiger populations in the world, yet it appears to be moving ahead. In addition, prawn cultivators have already converted thousands of hectares of mangrove habitats to commercial use.
The above examples are only the tip of the iceberg. The death knell of India's wildlife is being heard by those who choose not to ignore the early warning signals. Regretfully, the Ministry of Environment is caught wearing two hats, the larger one being that of a facilitator of industrial projects and the lesser one that of needing to protect our wildlife. Unless these two functions are separated there seems little hope that anything more than tokenism will emerge as the officers in charge of wildlife are simply not empowered to act in defence of the wilderness. Nothing illustrates this fact better than the manner in which the World Bank Forestry Projects are being pushed ahead, despite the (private) misgivings of almost all officers with a wildlife 'bias'. The Action Taken Report virtually confirms this assessment on page five of the Agenda Notes for the Twentieth Meeting of the Indian Board for Wildlife. Point 9 suggests that the projects need not be stopped pending a study to assess the impact of the Forestry Projects on Protected Areas "without concrete evidence of problems caused by implementation of such projects." It is quite obvious that the massive exercise of road widening in and around our protected area network, the construction of hundreds of concrete structures even in critical habitats such as Panna and Kanha National Park, pesticide use in forest areas, replacing of natural species with commercial species and the bending of forest rules (resulting in the cutting down of thousands of fruit trees in Bihar) have not been noticed by the Ministry of Environment. I had written to the Ministry bringing the pesticide use in Maharashtra to the attention of the Ad. I.G. Forests (Wildlife) as far back as February 15, 1997. I have yet to receive a reply. In the meanwhile, reports of pesticide scams in the Bihar Forest Department hit the news. I submit that pesticides and forests are anathema. This one factor alone merits a stay on the execution of the Forestry Projects, pending assessments. After the toxic pesticides have been released in forest soils, no technology on earth will be available to detoxify the ecosystem.
A similar problem arises in the case of the thousands of kilometres of roads being constructed throughout India. The information highlighted in this note on page one (Andhra Pradesh State Highways Project) is exactly what is taking place all over the country. If the MoEF is going to approve projects, very often without so much as a site visit, I would submit that they would be failing in their duty to the nation as the keepers of our wildlife heritage. The Indian Board for Wildlife is therefore requested to instruct the MoEF not to pass any road project, whether new or for improvement, if it passes through or within five kms. of a protected area... unless the alignment has been assessed from the natural history angle by an institution such as the Wildlife Institute of India, the Bombay Natural History Society, or an equally qualified institution in the field.
I would appreciate help to add/improve the above information. I am already in touch with some of you in this connection. There are two areas of specific help I could use: 1. To make the information more accurate and complete and 2. to work on the actual map.
Please write to the following address if you believe you can help.
Bittu Sahgal, Member
Indian Board for Wildlife,
602, Maker Chambers V, Nariman Point Bombay 400021
Fax: 91-22-2874380 email: email@example.com
and the World Bank
Killing Them Softly -- World Bank Development Projects Push Indian Tigers to the Brink By Jennifer Scarlott
Although a recent New York Times piece claimed that wild tigers have made a "remarkable recovery," a quick look at the real numbers gives a more accurate picture of the challenge this magnificent species faces at the brink of extinction. There were an estimated 100,000 wild tigers in Asia at the turn of the century. One hundred years later, their numbers have declined by 95 percent, and only 5,000 to 7,000 tigers are estimated to survive, approximately 4,000 of them in India. While there were eight subspecies in 1900, there are only five now. Conservationists the world over give the wild tiger anywhere from 10 to 25 years unless sustained emergency action is taken.
Back in the early 1970s, the picture was even worse. Decades of wholesale slaughter and habitat destruction had dropped Indian tiger numbers to an estimated 1,700. Backed by a million-dollar pledge from the World Wildlife Fund, the Government of India launched Project Tiger in 1973. Its objectives were two-fold: to "ensure the maintenance of a viable population of tigers" and "preserve for all time, areas of biological importance as a national heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people."
A ban on tiger hunting was finally imposed and entire villages were moved out of areas designated as sanctuaries. For the next 15 years or so, tigers responded vigorously, and Project Tiger was lauded and emulated all over the world. Relief turned to panic in the late 1980s, when censuses of tiger populations began to reveal that many were "missing." In fact, tigers were nowhere near as numerous as the Indian government reported. Investigations revealed that tigers were being trapped, poisoned and shot at an estimated rate of one per day to provide parts for the global black market trade in Chinese traditional medicine. By this time, China had virtually wiped out its own tiger population, having long viewed them as "pests." Tigers were also killed in growing numbers by farmers living on the borders of tiger forests.
But in the last decade, another formidable threat to tiger survival joined poaching and population pressure: runaway economic globalization. The tiger is now up against dams, mines, roads, tourism projects, thermal plants, cement factories, chemical effluents and commercial forestry projects, all being built in India on a massive scale. As Bittu Sahgal, a long-time tiger activist and editor of India's largest wildlife magazine, Sanctuary, puts it: "Were poaching and population the limit of the problem, I would say the tiger could be saved through a combination of education, protection and consultation with communities. Unfortunately, industrialists and international bureaucrats are developing the tiger out of existence."
The World Bank, which has an enormous presence in India, is working on two tracks. It funds numerous economic infrastructure development projects, which, activists say, threaten fragile ecosystems and tiger habitat throughout the country. At the same time, they add, it throws up a "green" smokescreen of concern for biodiversity. Hazaribagh ("Land of a Thousand Tigers") National Park in central India provides corridors vital to migrating tigers and elephants, which coal mines run by Coal India threaten to disconnect. Aided by World Bank funds, over 495 new coal mines are being added to those currently in operation.
In the Indian state of Bihar, the World Bank is financing the Kotku Dam, which will drown the best forests of a tiger reserve called Palamau. In Andhra Pradesh, a "Forestry Project" funded by the World Bank will convert tiger habitat to a monoculture designed to boost commerce rather than biodiversity. Bulldozing old-growth trees will make way for money-making species such as eucalyptus, teak and bamboo. "Tigers will no longer be able to live in such altered forests," says Sahgal. In Madhya Pradesh, an area of critical importance to the survival of Tigers in India, the Bank may invest more than $200 million over a 10-year period, "for development of the forestry sector."
According to Ashish Kothari, a founding member of the Pune-based Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group, which has been working on conservation and development for 20 years, "The World Bank has greatly aided an uncontrolled 'development' process which treats all of nature as raw materials. Even national parks and sanctuaries are being sacrificed for dams, power plants, highways and tourism complexes."
An arm of the Bank plans to spend $90 million on something called the "India Ecodevelopment Project," to "conserve biodiversity" near parks and sanctuaries. But according to a number of Indian environmental groups, pouring millions into seven protected areas, including five Project Tiger reserves, is not halting but spurring destruction of the forests and the local peoples' way of life.
Dr. Ravi Chellam, a scientist and research coordinator with the Wildlife Institute of India in Dehra Dun, bemoans the World Bank's self-imposed and disingenuous role as green superhero. "In Kalakud-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in southern Tamil Nadu, much of the Bank's money is Thrown at shoddily-constructed, unnecessary projects. It has always amazed me that in the name of conserving nature, we actually destroy it by bringing in tons of concrete and steel!"
Some tiger advocates do praise the Bank's role. Dr. V. K. Melkani, field director of the Kalakud Tiger Reserve portion of the Ecodevelopment Project, points to the Bank's "biodiversity enhancement" agenda which, he says, "provides us with an opportunity to test a new tool for forest protection." The Bank itself declined to comment directly about its role in tiger conservation. Instead, it provided E with the following statement: "The Bank's current environmental strategy aims to introduce environmental concerns into all aspects of the Bank's work through 'do no harm' policies to avoid and mitigate the negative impacts of infrastructure, power and other development activities."
The view from most environmentalists in India is that if the Bank doesn't change course, it will only be a matter of time for the tiger. Other threats to its survival seem serious, but manageable. Commercial development just might do what the poachers' snares and farmers' guns have not.
Contact The Tiger Information Center, c/o The Minnesota Zoo, 13000 Zoo Boulevard, Apple Valley, MN
Projects at Wildlife Institute of India
a. Strengthening the National Wildlife Database
b. Survey of animal damage problem in and around protected areas and managed forests in India : Phase-II
c. Developing area specific management guidelines for conservation of biodiversity in Satpura Conservation Area, taking into account the forestry objectives and local people's needs.
Establishing computerized wildlife database for conservation monitoring
in Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserve
Ecology of tiger: To enable a realistic projection of the requirements
needed to maintain a viable population of tigers in India
g. Ecology of gaur (Bos gaurus) in Pench tiger reserve, Madhya Pradesh
h. Ecology and management of the Indian giant squirrel
i. Conservation of the Indian Wolf
Impact of fragmentation on the biological diversity of rain forest small
mammals and herpetofauna
of the Western Ghats mountains, south India
k. Development of Indian Cooperative Wildlife Health Programme
l. Establishment of a wildlife forensic capacity at the Wildlife Institute of India (US-FWS collaborative project)
USDA FOREST SERVICE
Management of Forests in India for Biological Diversity and Forest Productivity - An Ecological Perspective
the National Wildlife Database
Faculty : Dr V. B Mathur Assistant : JS Kathayat
The objectives of the computer-based National Wildlife Database are to (1) provide readily accessible and comprehensive information on the conservation status of biogeographic regions, habitat types, individual animal species and the network of protected areas in the country; (2) establish linkages with researchers, protected area managers and planners and other such data centres; (3) facilitate research and training activities in wildlife by providing bibliographic support.
In 1996-97, the main thrust has been on data collection, input and its validation. Assistance was also provided in the development of an Atlas on Indian Protected Areas by supplying coordinates and district/s locations. The Protected Area Database was updated further. At present, there are 532 protected areas in India - 85 national parks and 447 wildlife sanctuaries, covering 145,325 km2 which is 4.41% of the country's total geographical area.
During the year, over 350 user queries
were attended to and outputs provided. The bibliographic database was updated
and cross-checked from various published and unpublished sources. It was
also converted from Database to Textual formats to make it more user-friendly.
Technical reports and bibliographic summaries were also prepared on various
aspects of the database. With the completion
of the second phase of the project, its final report was submitted in May
of animal damage problem in and around protected areas and managed forests
in India : Phase-II
Faculty: Dr NPS Chauhan Researcher: Dr KS Rajpurohit
In India, most of the protected areas are fragmented and disturbed from human activities, cattle grazing and exploitation of resources. Due to encroachment on forest lands and loss of habitats and habitat quality, there has been a drastic reduction of wildlife in the country. This has also resulted in ecological dislocation of many species from their former ranges. The disoriented animals stray into human habitations which is resulting in increasing conflicts and destruction of life and property. Cases of human killings, cattle lifting and crop raining by wild animals are being reported from every state. However, the extent of the problem is still vaguely defined and understood, and only scattered information is available. This project aims to collecting factual information on the nature and extent of damage, paradigm of conflicts with people in different states and suggest strategies to minimize the problems.
In Phase I of the project, the problem areas in the states of Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh were looked into. Last year, as part of the Phase II, the focus was on the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh; and the Rajasthan sector had been completed. This year, the attention was turned on Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. In the plains of Uttar Pradesh, crop damage by nilgai is common. Crop damage by elephant and wild boar was observed along the peripheries of Rajaji, Dudhwa and Corbett national parks. In the hills of Uttar Pradesh, there are pockets in which crops are damaged by black bear and wild boar. Apart from this, cattle -lifting and sheep and goat killing by leopard is also a problem throughout the hills. Human casualties by leopards were reported from Nainital, Pithoragarh, Pauri Garhwal, Almora west, Almora east, Kedarnath and Badrinath forest divisions.
In Himachal Pradesh, human-wildlife conflict
is on the increase; human casualties by leopard is a serious problem. Affected
areas are Shimla, Theog, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Jogindernagar, Dharamshala,
Palampur, Nurpur and Chamba forest divisions. Crop damage by monkeys is
also considerable, which requires immediate attention.
area specific management guidelines for conservation of biodiversity in
Satpura Conservation Area, taking into account the forestry objectives
and local people's needs.
Faculty : VB Sawarkar, Dr PK Mathur Researchers: Prachi Mehta, Azra Musavi
Active scientific management for the conservation of wildlife in managed forests, though a relatively new concept in India, is already seen as vital to the future planning of the PA network in the country. This project seeks to develop these wildlife management concepts in the Indian context and evolve guidelines which would not only conserve biodiversity but also cater to the people's balanced immediate and future needs.
The field work, conducted in Melghat tiger
reserve (Maharashtra), completed in July 1996. Mehta's work relates to
the response of selected groups of bird species to silvicultural treatments
of forest stands both, natural and plantations, which inter alia represented
a gradation of successional stages. Musavi, on the other hand, addressed
the relationship of the forest based economy of the local people and its
pressures and impacts on the forest resources. Her work was supplemented
by a wider structured query through line officials of the forest department.
An evaluation of the people-benefit programmes developed and delivered
by other agencies was integral in this work. Both researchers are currently
engaged in analysing their field data, with considerable secondary data
to support their field study, and developing various sections of their
computerized wildlife database for conservation monitoring and evaluation
Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserve
Faculty : Dr VB Mathur Researcher: Yogesh K Dubey
Protected areas lack precise or accurate and standardized methodologies for collecting data or even conducting routine surveys for monitoring vegetational and animal distributional changes. This affects proper conservation. It is being felt that the management planning capabilities of the managers need to be enhanced for the success of their management plans, by developing simple, rapid, field friendly and computer compatible methods for data collection, collation and analyses. It was with this idea that the current project was started in 1994 to develop computerized database on spatial as well as non-spatial attributes using ecological, managerial and socio economic data.
In the current year data was collected on habitat use using indirect method of pellet group count. Data was also collected from x m long strip transects. Road counts were done to assess the abundance of herbivore population. Unique habitats were monitored periodically to generate index of use of these habitat by various species. Scat samples of tiger and sloth bear were collected to determine their food habits. Biomass study was carried out in the anthropogenic grasslands which play a pivotal role in providing forage to species like chital, gaur and wild boar. Data was also collected on the use of these grassland by different herbivore species using direct and indirect methods.
Keeping in view the project objective of
motivation and training of field staff, field exercises were conducted
for forest guards. A workshop on pugmark census and waterhole counts was
conducted for field staff during which intensive training was given on
field techniques. Field staff was also involved in monitoring. The
field work will end by June 1997 and the report of the study is expected
to be ready by December 1997.
of tiger: To enable a realistic projection of the requirements
needed to maintain a viable population of tigers in India
Faculty : Dr RS Chundawat Researcher: Neel Gogate
After the success in tiger conservation in the seventies and eighties, the tiger population is again on a down-slide in the last few years, which necessitates looking into the problem afresh. This project, by studying the tiger's feeding ecology, habitat utilization, home ranges and movement patterns, intends to make a realistic projection of the requirements needed (both, prey and minimum protected area) to maintain a demographically viable population of tigers. This would help in not only predicting the potential of India's PA network for conserving tigers and their habitats, but also to target special programmes for managing crucial tiger habitats and large carnivore population.
The field work, located in Panna national park, started in December 1995 and after preliminary spadework, six tigers had been identified for radio-collaring. In April 1996, two tigers (one adult male and one sub-adult female) were radio-collared. These were located on kills and immobilized using the drug Medetomidine in combination with Ketamine hydrochloride. A proportion of 0.05 mg Medetomidine and 3.5 mg of Ketamine hydrochloride per kg body weight was used to achieve desirable sedation. Both animals were revived by using specific antagonist, Atipamezole.
The radio-collared animals were then tracked systematically to collect information on their movement pattern and home range. Home ranges were calculated by the minimum convex polygon method. The summer home ranges of the male 115 sq km and that of the female 31 sq km. The sub-adult female's home range achieved an asymptote after 14 locations, whereas adult male's home range stabilized after 20 locations. About 80% of the locations of the male was within an area of 42.5 sq km and that of the female in 3.8 sq km. The mean distance travelled in 24 hrs between two locations by the male tiger was 3.88 +_ 0.54 km, whereas the mean distance travelled by the female was 2.26 +_ 0.52 km.
The dispersing sub-adult female suddenly
died in September 1996 and cause of her mortality could not be ascertained.
During the monsoon and subsequent months, the male tiger enlarged its home
range substantially to 172 sq km, which now extends outside the park. In
January 1997, one more adult female with three cubs was radio-collared
within the male's territory. Preliminary analysis suggests that she is
active over 35-40 sq km of area.
of gaur (Bos gaurus) in Pench tiger reserve, Madhya Pradesh
Faculty : Dr K Sankar and Qamar Qureshi Researchers : Mohd Khaleed Syed Pasha and G Areendran
The study aims to collect information on the distribution, density, group size and composition, diet, home range and habitat use of gaur and accordingly make recommendations for better management in the Pench tiger reserve. In the initial reconnaissance phase, methodologies for vegetation quantification, biomass studies, leaf and fruit fall quantification, ungulate population monitoring, home range and habitat use of gaur and plant phenology studies were tested in field. Important trees, shrubs and grasses have been permanently marked for phenology monitoring. Six line transects and three vehicle transects are being monitored in Pench national park.
These transects have been walked/monitored
in different seasons. Based on these density information on gaur, chital,
sambar and nilgai has been calculated for the summer and winter. Data on
group size, age and sex ratio, female-young ratio and habitat use of wild
ungulates have been collected. Data on food habits of gaur was presented
at the Annual Research Seminar in September 1996. It is now planned to
capture 10 gaurs for radio-collaring and the collecting blood and tissue
samples in April-May 1997.
and management of the Indian giant squirrel
Principal investigator: Dr Renee Borges Researchers : Subhash Mali and Hema Somanathan
Located at Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary in Maharashtra which supports a good population of the Malabar giant squirrel, this study is investigating the food selection and ranging patterns of the species and examining the relationship between food availability and the animal's reproductive success. The findings will help in developing a management plan for its conservation. The study also involves BNHS, Bombay. population.
During 1996-97, the researchers completed
their investigations on food selection, ranging patterns of the Malabar
giant squirrel. Aspects of food availability and giant squirrel reproduction
success was also investigated compiling extensive data on community level
pathology of vegetation of the study area and three satellite area. In
September-October 1996, Borges interacted with Dr Doyle Mckey, advisor
to the project in France and also interacted with various other scientists
in the USA, particularly at Universities of Miami and Washington on the
project data analysis. The data and
materials gathered from the field are currently analyzed at various specialized
laboratories. The final project report and two Ph.D thesis is to be completed
by September 1997, when the project comes to an end.
of the Indian Wolf
Faculty : Dr YV Jhala Researcher:Dr.Dinesh Sharma, Bharat Jetwa & Reema Pandey
The wolf, a major predator in the semi-arid grassland-scrubland habitats of India, is on the endangered list of Indian fauna. The species is, however, yet to receive attention in the form of detailed scientific studies or conservation and remains widely persecuted. From the limited scientific information available, it is clear that it can be effectively conserved provided efforts begin soon.
This research aims to provide insight into the basic parameters of wolf ecology so as to aid in the formation of a national strategy for its conservation. The specific objectives of the research are to 1) estimate the population and distribution of wolves in India, 2) identify viable wolf populations that need to be conserved, 3) evaluate the population dynamics, food-habits, prey biomass needs, energetics, home range/territory size of wolves in three representative areas - Kutch and Bhal areas of Gujarat and one site in Maharashtra, 4) gain a scientific understanding of human-wolf conflict and suggest ways to reduce the problem, and 5) to study the conservation genetics of wolf populations.
The three sites chosen for the study span different aspects of socio-economic and ecological factors that are likely to affect wolf conservation. Wolves from different packs have been radio-collared in the Bhal area. Valuable data on habitat selection for denning and pup rearing, pup and juvenile mortality, food habits, prey populations, human-wolf conflicts, and prey-predator relationships have been collected in the Bhal and Kutch study sites.
A significant outcome of the field research has been the identification of canine distemper as the major cause of wolf mortality in the Bhal area, and as human caused deaths of pups and poisoning of adult wolves in the Kutch area. Some wolf pups from one of the packs in the Bhal area were captured and vaccinated against canine distemper by the Gujarat Forest Department personnel. There has been 100% pup survival in the partly vaccinated pack and 60% pup survival in an unvaccinated pack upto the age of 8 months.
Last year, the human-wolf conflict reached a high with reports of over 50 children alleged to have been killed and eaten by wolves in eastern UP. With the objective of determining the identity of the predator and understanding the likely cause for such aberrant behaviour, we investigated the recent lethal and non lethal attacks on over 70 children in eastern Uttar Pradesh, India. We examined the remains of killed children, sites of attack and body recovery, autopsy reports and electron micrographs of predator hair. We interviewed eyewitnesses, survivors of attacks, officials and the families of the victims. Data on location and dates of attacks were verified and analyzed to understand spatial and temporal trends. We used an index of quantify availability of wild and domestic wolf prey and assess vulnerability of children to wolf predation.
Our data on tracks and electron micrographs, and the description provided by eyewitness and survivors as well, suggests the child-lifter to indeed be a wolf - and a single wolf at that. Between 17 March and 15 October 1996, the attacks occurred at a frequency of one every third day. On an average,a child was killed every fifth day. The average distance between consecutive attack sites was 13.28 km. (se 1.2 km). The total area where attacks occurred covered 1,390 km2.
The region had more vulnerable children as compared to domestic livestock or wild prey. Most killings occurred due to some form of neglect by the parents. All victims belonged to the poorer section of the society and over 50% of them had only their mother to look after them. The age of the children attacked ranged from 4 months to 9 years. We suggested precautionary measures to reduce incidence of lethal attacks and made recommendations on ways to specifically target the child-lifter and avoid unnecessary killing of other wolves.
Besides the major grant for the study coming
from US-FWS, funds for the study have also been obtained from National
Geographic Society, Centre for Field Research (Earthwatch), National Fish
and Wildlife Foundation.
of fragmentation on the biological diversity of rain forest small mammals
of the Western Ghats mountains, south India
Faculty: Dr Ajith Kumar (SACON), Dr Ravi Chellam, BC Choudhury and Dr Barry Noon
Researchers: Karthikeyan Vasudevan, Divya Muddappa, NM Ishwar
The rainforests of the Western Ghats, over the last several decades have suffered immense habitat loss and consequently, severe fragmentation. Though the existing rainforests have now been brought under the protected area network, fragmentation remain a matter of serious concern, because for many species the effects of fragmentation manifesting over a long period of time has the same consequences as extinction. It is extremely important that the management options towards conserving the remnant patches of rainforests be assessed urgently.
The objectives of this study are to (1) identify the major factors governing faunal distribution and abundance in a large, contiguous and relatively undisturbed rainforest; (2) identify changes bought about by habitat fragmentation on topography, soil, vegetation composition and structure, etc. and relate these changes to those in faunal distribution and abundance in the rainforest fragments of Annamalai hills; (3) develop a set of statistical models based on the above two objectives, which would allow the prediction of faunal changes as a function of fragmentation; and (4) carry out a survey across the Western Ghats to validate the predictions of the models.
In May-June 1996, an abandoned plantation building at Sengaltheri in Kalakkad-Mundanthurai tiger reserve was renovated to set up the project field base. Intensive field work is to be carried out at three sites - Sengaltheri, Kakkachi and Kannikatti. Preliminary field continued till August 1996, when various field methodologies were tested to decide the most appropriate method and sampling strategy and to standardize the same. Since in many respects this is the first time that such an intensive study with a strict quantitative approach is being attempted in India in the rainforests, there were numerous problems in standardizing the methods.
The preliminary data was presented by the
three researchers at the Annual Research Seminar in September 1996, for
which they were judged among the awardees. The
researchers returned to the field in October 1996 for intensive field work
which involved systematic trapping of rodents, camera trapping of small
carnivores, systematic searching for reptiles (including arboreal reptiles)
and amphibians, recording of amphibian calls, and specific targeted searches
in special microhabitats for herpetofauna. Initial
analysis indicates a much lower trapping success for rodents, amphibians
and reptiles than was anticipated. The preponderance of zero quadrats for
herpetofauna has resulted in partial modification of the initial methods
and adoption of Adaptive Sampling. Dr Noon's visit to the field in January
1997 also led to many useful modifications. The
small mammal work has also begun in the rainforest fragments of Indira
Gandhi wildlife sanctuary, Annamalai hills. Work in the fragments for herpetofauna
will begin later. Currently other field work and data collection is continuing
in the rainforests.
of Indian Cooperative Wildlife Health Programme
Faculty : Dr PK Malik
Wildlife health forms an important subject of teaching both in regular courses of WII and the special course in Zoo management, and a vital applied component in most of the institute's research programmes. The institute also interacts with, consults and advises PA managers, state wildlife agencies, animal husbandry departments and veterinary institutions. But it is not possible for WII to alone address the wildlife health needs of the entire country.
The problems facing wildlife health are actually much larger. Considerable progress has been made in India in disease control among domestic animals, but little has been done in the case of wildlife. Veterinary institutions provide no formal training in wildlife health aspects and therefore local veterinarians can offer little assistance. As a result, when diseases occur in wild animals, mortalities from it become widespread even before they are noticed by which time it is impossible to conduct satisfactory disease investigations and take preventive measures.
Through this project, a nationwide programme has been initiated to address wildlife diseases and related issues in a timely, effective and comprehensive manner. Toward this, a wildlife health programme is being developed to advance the capabilities of select veterinary medical institutions in teaching a course in wildlife health, providing diagnosis and investigation of disease outbreaks, prevention and control of diseases in the free ranging wildlife, information exchange, education and consultation with wildlife managers, biologists and veterinary medical specialists.
Dr RG Jani, Asstt Professor, Anand Veterinary College (Gujarat) completed his training in wildlife management and health in May 1996. After him, Dr SK Mishra, Associate Professor, Hissar Veterinary College (Haryana) joined WII's Diploma Course in Wildlife Management for the same training. With this the number of such trained officers has become five, all from different parts of the country. These personnel have been designated Wildlife Health Coordinators (WHC) of the Indian Wildlife Health Cooperative Centres (IWHCC) in their respective areas.
During 1996-97, the IWHCCs at Anand Veterinary College, Gujarat (Western Region), Guwahati Veterinary College, Assam (Eastern Region), Madras Veterinary College, Tamil Nadu (Southern Region) and Jabalpur Veterinary College, Madhya Pradesh (Central Region) have been provided infrastructural support in the form of field vehicles and equipments.
IWHCC (Southern) has established a Wildlife Medicine Department at Madras Veterinary College and is currently designing a two-year course for MVSc in Wildlife Medicine. It is also developing a proposal to investigate health and disease conditions of domestic elephants in Tamil Nadu; and did the serological screening of serum samples of canids collected in WII's project on the wolf.
IWHCC (Central) provided additional support to WII's project at Panna during immobilization and radio-collaring of tigers. It is also conducting a study of musk deer anatomy and serological investigation of captive musk deer,including a vaccination clinical trial for WII's project on this species in Kedarnath wildlife sanctuary. The WHC here has conducted investigation into the causes of captive tiger mortalities in Madhya Pradesh and developed a project on sero-epidemiological study of some endangered wildlife species in the state.
During 1996-97, the IWHCC (Eastern) conducted
a vaccination programme on domestic livestock in and around Kaziranga national
park. In collaboration with the State wildlife department, it is setting
up an ICAR supported health monitoring project for wild and captive wildlife
in the same national park.
of a wildlife forensic capacity at the Wildlife Institute of India (US-FWS
Faculty: Dr SP Goyal and SK Mukherjee Researchers: Dr Archana S Kumar and Nicky Xavier
The international illegal trade in endangered species alone is valued at about 1-2 billion dollars per year. There are laws against poaching but these are often improperly enforced. This is particularly as biological remains such as blood stains, hair samples, small meat pieces, bones or highly processed products confiscated from culprits cannot be identified on the basis of morphological characteristics but need forensic techniques for identification. However, in India, such techniques have generally not been available to wildlife offenses and investigative and analytical procedures related to wildlife have not been developed. Moreover, there neither adequate reference material and standardized methods necessary to identify species nor have any systematic studies been done in this direction.
WII had successfully conducted a project to standardize forensic techniques and strengthen its laboratory capabilities in identifying species from biological samples. On the gains of that research, this project was initiated to develop this facility at WII, including developing identification procedures and collecting a body of reference material for the vertebrate species.
For species identification, hair are examined through cross section, cuticular patterns by making imprint on slide using gelatine or 15% Polyvinyl alcohol and medulla pattern under simple research microscope or Scan Electron Microscope (SEM). In addition, hair thickness and other measurements are taken. All these variables have been measured for ibex (Capra ibex), blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur), Tibetan antelope (Pantholops hodgsoni) and Pashmina goat. We are in the process of preparing protocols to identify hair of Tibetan antelope which when done will be made available to various forensic laboratories as well as enforcement agencies.
The project supervisor and a researcher
completed a training on use of "Geoanalytical techniques" at Wadia Institute
of Himalayan Geology, Dehra Dun. Work has been undertaken to characterize
deer antlers and musk powder collected from musk pods based on X-ray diffraction.
Management of Forests in India for Biological Diversity and Forest Productivity - An Ecological Perspective
Faculty : VB Sawarkar, SK Mukherjee, Dr PK Mathur, Dr SP Singh, Ajai Saxena, DVS Khati and Sugato Dutt
Researchers: Dr Anjana pant, Dr NK Ramchandra, Geeta Sunal, Ashish Kumar and Harish Kumar
The aim of this project is to evolve approaches and practices for integrated forest management planning which are essential for the conservation of biodiversity and enhanced productivity of forest ecosystems. The project commenced last year and is being carried out at select sites in five states - Balaphakaram and Nokrek national parks and Siju wildlife sanctuary in Meghalaya; Dudhwa national park and surrounding areas in Uttar Pradesh; Satpura national park, Bori and Pachmarhi wildlife sanctuaries and the forests of Hoshangabad, north, east and south Betul forest divisions in Madhya Pradesh; Melghat tiger reserve and the forests of east, west and south Melghat divisions in Maharashtra; and Indira Gandhi national park, Annamalai wildlife sanctuary and surrounding forests in Tamil Nadu. These sites represent a diversity of ecological, managerial, socio-cultural and economic challenges necessary for testing a range of options and technological templates. It is intended for these sites to serve as demonstration models leading to the development of management tools and a field guide.
After their orientation training, the researchers set about their initial spadework of recce, setting up logistics and contacts, collection of secondary information and developing investigation protocols with the supervising investigators working alongside on the identified four project areas - Garo Hills, Terai, Satpura and Annamalai conservation areas (CAs). A Planning Workshop was held at WII in June 1996 to formalis all strategies and set up a framework of schedule.The State forest departments have provided facilities of field stations, staff support and logistics and have appointed nodal officers for each of the sites. Investigations continued on all sites.
In March 1997, four counterpart US Forest
Service scientists arrived in India - two for Satpura CA, one each for
Annamalai CA and Terai CA. The WII faculty and researchers worked alongside
the USFS scientists at the various project sites. Towards the end of their
25-day assignment, project strategies were further fine tuned and framework
for field guides was established. It was also decided to revise the schedule
set under the Planning Workshop of since there was no possibility of securing
additional funding as had been proposed during that workshop. Broad changes
were agreed upon.
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 10, 2000
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