|Internet Bulletin : Issue Number 6
April 15, 2000
Wildlife of Maharashtra
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This bulletin contains important papers that discuss international and national issues with direct relevance to the wildlife of Maharashtra.
Report and Comment on the first
Symposium on the use of Endangered Species
Shortsighted conservation destabilises India's wildlife habitats By Ashish Kothari
Tiger Bone Market
Report and Comment on the first
Symposium on the use of Endangered Species
The symposium was held in Hongkong over December 7 and 8. As the first time ever that the worlds of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and conservationists met, it provided some interesting lessons. (Note: The conference was organised by TRAFFIC East Asia. This report conentrates on TIGER BONE. Information on musk will be posted at a later date)
Now to the lessons. For one thing, TCM
1. Misunderstand the motives of conservationists or the logic of conservation and biodiversity;
2. Feel severely under pressure from conservationists as well as the more modern Chinese public who are veering away from TCM towards western medicine;
3. Resent the implication of cultural superiority that the ''western'' notion of conservation (or indeed medicine) implies;
4. Are troubled by misinformation on TCM perpetuated by the western media.
The motives and logic of conservation
At one point, after Peter Jackson had finished a short presentation on the status of tigers in the wild, a Chinese delegate asked why it was so important to preserve the tiger since it was a dangerous animal and its presence conflicted with the needs of human populations. To me this illustrated the misunderstanding of the logic of conservation - as well as the Chinese attitude (when I say Chinese it's only in this context and is not meant as a generalisation specific to Chinese; frankly it's the attitude of most people whatever their race/nationality) of seeing animals in general as things to be USED by and for humans.
TCM practitioners certainly think so. We were presented a lot of data on the comparative medical efficacy of various types of bone, and the bones of a kind of mole rat from high altitude plateaux was identified by a researcher as a viable alternative to tiger bone. Significantly, he said there were hundreds of thousands of the rodent, and it was classified as vermin. Ironically, one remembers that the tiger was once classified as vermin in parts of Indochina.
But the point is the attitude - that we
will move from animal to animal in search of these ingredients. In this
sense, despite the hope held out for the mole rat, the conservationist
community should recognise the warning signals before it is too late :
if over the next ten years the tiger population is significantly reduced
and they become even rarer, the black market will shift to other big cats
and eventually to lesser cats!
Background on tiger bones
Under pressure/changing times and western cultural superiority
TCM practitioners feel they're getting
a raw deal. For a start, most TCM practitioners the world over are from
a slightly older generation, and have a poor understanding of things like
CITES treaties, sometimes simply because their English is not very good.
Second, they feel the west is beating up on TCM. They are hurt by this. Speakers at the conference repeatedly stated - somewhat defensively - that TCM was a treasured 2,000-year-old tradition. One American speaker came in for a blast of criticism from one of the Chinese delegates for being patronising about TCM. This same delegate - a TCM practitioner - had a fit when another Chinese delegate (Zhang Endi, Wildlife Conservation Society) who has worked to raise awareness for wildlife conservation in two or three cities including Shanghai cited survey results that showed about half the respondents chose western medicine as a first line of referral, using TCM as a second line or in a complementary role. The critical delegate heckled Mr Zhang from the audience, saying he didn't know what he was talking about and that his survey was ''ridiculous.''
Another elderly Chinese practitioner of TCM who has pioneered the modernisation of TCM (Lao Yiu-ching, Institute of Modern Chinese Medicine, Hongkong, who actually used the Chinese equivalent of the word ''myth'' when describing tiger bone's properties) gave a presentation in which he cited several cases which he and his colleagues had successfully treated without using tiger bone. His aim was to show that, without denying the medical properties of tiger bone, other treatments were just as good. ''I hope our colleagues can have an open attitude'' he said. But that was wishful thinking; he was also roundly criticised for being one-dimensional and inaccurate by two of his fellow TCM practitioners in the audience.
One Chinese delegate (based in England)
mentioned in a presentation that TCM practitioners were as endangered as
some species of wildlife. The friction within the Chinese delegates at
the symposium definitely underscored the sense of persecution that TCM
A couple of speakers cited a slew of media reports that they said spread misinformation and hurt the reputation and morale of TCM practitioners. Much of it is not new to conservationists who know their subject. The instances included reputable magazines and newspapers saying tiger bone and rhino horn is used as an aphrodisiac by ''Asians.''
(For the information of visitors to this site who may not be familiar with the subject, it is a myth that these products are used as aphrodisiacs. Rhino horn is used to reduce fever, and tiger bone to reduce rheumatic inflammation, boost circulation and strengthen bone structure.)
Speaker Chang Hsien-cheh from Taiwan (School of Chinese Medicine, China Medical College, Taichung) made a pertinent point when he said substitutes for tiger bone had always been available. TCM traders would ask customers if they wanted genuine goods or ''common'' goods. Besides this, there were dozens and dozens of products that claimed to contain tiger bone but didn't. ''Most tiger bones are actually goat bones'' he said. Tiger bones were also difficult to identify as such, confusing the issue further. A well-known magazine once printed a picture of a tiger penis; it was actually a fake/substitute from another species. He added that in Taiwan, TCM traders have ceased stocking tiger bone products - or products claiming to contain tiger bone, because the police have been cracking down on them.
Analyses of tiger bone and the bones of selected other species was presented. Tiger was proven to be not significantly differentin composition, if at all, from other species' bones, for instance that of pigs, dogs and cows. According to speaker Henry Chu (Chinese Medicinal Material Research Centre, The Chinese University of Hongkong), the bones of the Sailonggu (a high-altitude, burrow-dwelling, non-hibernating rodent which appeared to be a kind of mole rat, and apparently numbers in the hundreds of thousands) holds out the best hope for a substitute. Sailonggu wine is already commercially available at RMB 25 (US$ 3) a bottle.
''We hope people can do away with the myth of tiger bone'' Mr Chu said.
Comment : From the information thrown up by the conference, it seems to me that tiger products will continue to be used regardless of excellent available substitutes. Given the fact that other animals' bones are not significantly different, if at all, it leads one to conclude that tiger products are also sought after because of perception/what the tiger represents. If the tiger was a small rat it wouldn't be in such demand, for example. Also, the fact that there is a lot of fake tiger bone floating around in the TCM market leads one to suspect that there is a certain placebo effect for those who consume it believing it's from a tiger. It could be leopard bone, or bones from some other big or lesser cat, or indeed goat bone.
There is a marketing problem here : how to get people to accept substitutes? Tiger products are illegal, but as we know they can be obtained at a price. If a consumer can afford a tiger product, he will surely get one rather than settling for a Sailonggu-wine substitute, or perhaps pig bone, which has similar medical effects. This ''stubborn residual market'' is exactly the problem - because of course there are not enough tigers left to support it if the prevailing situation continues.
In an Asian Wall Street Journal article
(issue of Dec 8) on the conference, Diane Brady quoted delegate Angi Ma
Wong, a California-based ''intercultural'' consultant, on the subject of
substituting tiger bone for pig bone: ''The pig just doesn't have the same
mystique. It's like shopping for leather goods at Chanel and then suddenly
switching to K-Mart.''
According to research presented (which was however mildly disputed at the conference), the following is the prevalence of the use of endangered species (both plants and animals) in TCM:
Total number Endangered species
Historical use 5767 80
Current 1000 18*
Future 982 0
*8 listed in CITES appendix I, 10 in CITES
appendix II. Two plant species feature in those found in appendix I : Aucklandia
lappa and Eretmochelys imbricata. Data on north America was not available,
but in Europe the number of TCM traders was given as about 10,000 - mostly
in the UK and Germany. In the UK, Operation Charm (a police operation)
evolved a sticker for TCM traders which stated that they did not stock
tiger products. Over 100 TCM traders qualified for the window sticker.
Shortsighted conservation destabilises India's wildlife habitats By Ashish Kothari
India's 540-plus national parks and sanctuaries (protected areas, or PAs, for short) harbour many of its last large stretches of natural habitat and viable wildlife populations. They also protect many of India's crucial watersheds, and offer critical ecosystem functions which are of unmeasurable economic and social benefit. Very few of these PAs are, however, the 'pristine', 'virgin' areas that they are portrayed to be. They are inhabited and used by several million human beings and livestock. Amongst these are some of India's most ancient communities, forest-dwelling tribes such as the Chenchus (Andhra Pradesh) and the Korkus (Maharashtra). In one way of the other , most of these people are dependent on the natural resources of these PAs, and have customary or formal rights to such resources.
The Wild Life (Protection) Act of 1972 requires that state governments, after declaring their intention to notify an area as a PA, have to "settle" these rights. The two main categories of PAs in India differ in this respect. In a national park, no right can be allowed to continue. In a sanctuary, on the other hand, rights can be allowed, if the state's Chief Wildlife Warden and the district authorities feel this is necessary. Where rights are extinguished, appropriate compensation or alternatives have to be provided. But in both national parks and sanctuaries, state governments have the power to delete portions of the intended PA, where rights have been claimed and are not possible to settle. After all this is over, the PA is finally notified, with the originally intended boundaries, or altered ones.
Most state governments have been rather
lax about finishing this procedure. A study of about 260 PAs, in the late
1980s, carried out by the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA),
showed that settlement was pending for 92% of sanctuaries and 60% of national
parks. In many of these cases, settlement had not been completed for over
25 years! There was therefore great uncertainty about whether people actually
had rights to a PA's resources or not, a situation not conducive to either
the proper management of the PA or the livelihood security of the local
The order and its consequences
In 1995, the World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-I) approached the Supreme Court, urging it to direct state governments to fully implement the Wild Life Act. In 1997, the Court directed all states to complete settlement of people's rights within one year. This seemed a major victory for conservationists.
But WWF-I had not informed the Court of the enormous complexity and scale of the settlement process that would have to be carried out. Determining and settling the rights of at least 4-5 million people is no easy task. It is made especially difficult in a situation where many rights are not even recorded, local people are illiterate or ignorant of how to claim rights, and the process is to be carried out by already over-burdened district officials. Members of the environmental group Kalpavriksh have started piecing together information on the impacts of the Supreme Court order, and the emerging picture is frightening:
In Himachal Pradesh, a part of the Great Himalayan National Park has just been deleted in May 1999 (see box), and at least 4 other PAs are targeted for full or partial denotification or deletion: Lippa Asrang, Sangla, Shikari Devi, and Rupi Bhaba Sanctuaries. The total area threatened is several hundred square kilometers (upto 15-20% of the total PA coverge of the state!), only some of which is inhabited. These PAs are home to threatened species like Musk deer, Snow leopard, Blue sheep, Ibex, and Himalayan tahr, and thousands of other wildlife species.
In Gujarat, there are proposals for deletion
of areas from Balaram Ambajee Sanctuary, Dhrangadhra Wild Ass Sanctuary,
Kachch Desert Sanctuary, Marine National Park, and Gir National Park. Two
of these, Dhrangadhra and Gir, harbour the last populations of severely
endangered species, the Indian wild ass and the Asiatic lion, respectively.
Precise information for these is not available.
In Madhya Pradesh, 40% of Semarsot Sanctuary has already been knocked off, and there are proposals for similar action in the case of others like Son Ghariyal Sanctuary and Sanjay National Park. Some of the Semarsot deletion was perhaps justified, but in the process considerable area of wildlife value has also been sacrificed.
In Maharashtra, a substantial chunk of Koyna Sanctuary is proposed for deletion, and there may be others for which information is not available.
In Goa, deletion is proposed for Mollem Sanctuary, in an area where ancillary activities to mining are ongoing. This will open up the rest of the sanctuary for further expansion of disturbing activities, including a thoroughfare for minerals transport.
Why this spate of deletions? Very soon after the Supreme Court order, some NGOs had predicted that many district collectors may delete parts of PAs with human habitation and/or rights, rather than get into the headache of settling rights. The Wild Life Act allows for this step to be taken, without having to take central government clearance. This is precisely what is happening.
In many instances, the Forest Department
is opposing such proposals, and has been partially successful in some (e.g.
Koyna Sanctuary, Maharashtra, and Son Ghariyal Sanctuary, M.P.). However,
there are other cases where the Department has either agreed, or buckled
under pressure. The most shocking one is that of the Great Himalayan National
Park (see box).
Who really benefits?
The reason stated by state governments for proposing deletion is that it will free villagers of the shackles imposed by the Wild Life Act. Undoubtedly this could be a valid argument in some instances. However, evidence seems to also suggest hidden motives in many cases. The Great Himalayan National Park is a prime example (see box). If the Parbati Hydel project comes through here, there is little likelihood that local communities will benefit. If anything, the project and its ancillary activities (tunneling, roads, blasting, labour camps, etc.) will only take away or destroy the natural resources on which the livelihood of these villages is dependent. This is true of many or most of the areas where denotification is proposed. Hydel projects are upcoming or proposed in Sangla and Rupi Bhaba Sanctuaries of Himachal. In Goa, an area earlier deleted from the Mollem Sanctuary ostensibly for freeing people's rights, is now subjected to iron-ore mining. In Koyna Sanctuary, Maharashtra, Kalpavriksh members discovered that all along the edge of the Sanctuary area proposed for deletion, bauxite prospecting and the construction of a huge windmills complex were taking place.
On May 28, 1999, the Himachal Pradesh government deleted 1060 ha. from Jiwa Nal valley of the Great Himalayan National Park. The ostensible reason was the presence of two villages in the area. But this is patently absurd, for these villages contain a tiny handful of families who do not need such a large area. The actual motive is the proposed Parbati Hydro-electricity Project, which was stalled so far due to the Park's existence. The settlement order came at just the right time for the project proponents; the District Collector recommended deletion of this part of Jiwa Nal from the Park, and the state government quickly (within one week!) processed the recommendation. Shockingly, the Chief Wildlife Warden certified that the deleted area was of little ecological significance!
The Jiwa Nal area of the Park is actually considered to be one of its prime wildlife habitats. Wildlife Institute of India scientists have listed several threatened plant and animals species from here, and are firm in their opinion that the hydel project, if built, will be enormously destructive.
Deletions and denotifications of PAs will only benefit a small fraction of local communities, which has access to dominant market and political forces. The major beneficiary will be the powerful commercial-industrial lobby. Having devoured substantial parts of India's natural habitats outside PAs, this lobby is now eyeing the minerals, timber, hydro-potential, and other 'raw materials' that are "locked up" inside PAs. The settlement order has come as a golden opportunity for them.
But if they are not going to benefit, why are local villagers not protesting against the denotifications? The reasons are simple. Orthodox conservationists have over the last few decades made enemies of the very people who could have been their strongest allies, by advocating policies which have severely restricted the access of local communities to the resources of PAs. The settlement procedure itself is intensifying such alienation. In many PAs, the Collectors' notice to claim rights is being mistaken as an eviction notice, and forest officials or local NGOs are sometimes fuelling this fear. To some extent, this scare is even justified. In Madhya Pradesh, for instance, some Collectors have issued a notice which states that after the settlement procedure is complete, no one will be allowed to collect non-timber forest produce. For tribals whose household and livelihood requirements are substantially dependent on such collection, the notice may as well have said: "get out"! In most cases, rights which are not already recorded in government documents, or which are 'intangible', do not even figure in the Collectors' settlement procedure. People within Reserved Forests, or those in 'forest villages' (without revenue status), are being ignored.
In some exceptional cases, Collectors have conscientiously recorded and settled rights, including allowing many to continue, such as in Jamva Ramgarh Sanctuary (Rajasthan). However, by and large, the end result of the ongoing settlement procedure in many PAs is an increase in hostility between local communities and government officials. It is no wonder that PA deletions are not only not being opposed, but sometimes being welcomed by local people.
However, where informed of the real implications of denotification, communities have not been so welcoming. In Koyna Sanctuary, Maharashtra, villagers and some local NGOs were initially happy about the Collector's proposal to delete portions of the Sanctuary. But when Kalpavriksh members pointed out that such a move might make mining or other destructive developments in adjacent areas much easier, they agreed that the continuation of the sanctuary status may be better. Activist groups working amongst tribals in Madhya Pradesh's PAs, such as Ekta Parishad, have also recently recognised the need to minimise reductions in PA area.
But what about resettling people out of PAs, as may conservationists demand? This is not really a viable or just option. According to the Madhya Pradesh government, resettling all the people from within its 40-plus PAs would require Rs. 1500 crores --- while its annual budget for wildlife is a mere Rs. 4 crores! Multiply this to the whole country, and the financial implications are staggering. In any case, even if money were to be made available, governments have woefully inadequate social and administrative capacity to successfully resettle such large numbers of people.
The root of the problems created by the Supreme Court order is an extreme conservationist position that wildlife can only survive in human-free conditions. Undoubtedly, several wildlife species need an undisturbed environment to thrive in. 'Inviolate zones' are therefore of great significance, and India must strive to secure such areas over a substantial part of its natural ecosystems. But to advocate that all wildlife habitats must become human-free, is a great ecological and social folly. It is such a folly that has led to the deletion of area in Great Himalayan Park --- for the Wild Life Act, based on an exclusionary model of conservation, dictated that a national park cannot have people inside. Never mind that the two tiny villages inside the Park were causing no ecological damage, and indeed could have helped to conserve the Park's wildlife if ensured the benefits of such conservation.
What is the alternative?
Extremist positions from conservationists (resettle all people outside PAs) or social activists (denotify PAs and scrap the Wild Life Act) are of little help in resolving the crisis. More positive, radical options are available, to reconcile conservation and basic livelihood interests. In instances like Great Himalayan Park, conversion of inhabited proportions of the national park to a sanctuary status would help avoid both displacement and denotification, since rights can be allowed to continue in a sanctuary. Such a step was already earlier taken for the Sainj Valley of the Park, where the presence of two villages necessitated its conversion into a sanctuary. Wildlife researchers Nima Manjrekar and Yash Veer Bhatnagar have argued, in the case of Pin Valley National Park of Himachal Pradesh, that the conversion of the park into a sanctuary and allowing the few dozen resident grazier families to remain inside would serve the cause of wildlife conservation better than displacing them. The Divisional Forest Officer in charge of Anshi National Park, Karnataka, has forcefully argued that the six villages inside the Park, slated for displacement as per the law, should be allowed to remain inside, as they are his only supporters against poaching and wood theft by outsiders.
But local people cannot simply be used as labour for conservation work. Their access to traditional bona fide and survival resources must be ensured, as basic rights along with a set of responsibilities. This would be their greatest stake to conserve these resources. Such an option is available within the Wild Life Act (Section 23(2)c), provided wildlife authorities are able to perceive local people's involvement as being beneficial to wildlife conservation. In Uttar Pradesh, the state government recently allowed grass removal from within PAs (including national parks), noting that this was helpful in fire prevention. In Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Sanctuary, Karnataka, NGOs have helped the Soliga tribals to obtain a better livelihood from medicinal plants, while enrolling their help in conserving the PA and its wildlife. In Kailadevi Sanctuary, Rajasthan, self-initiated forest protection committees are doing what the Forest Department simply does not have the resources to do: maintaining a daily check against cutting of trees and hunting of wildlife. This does not mean that all human activities within all PAs are beneficial; indeed, in many PAs, there is resource over-exploitation or over-grazing, and alternatives have to be urgently found for these activities, but within an overall system of integrating conservation and livelihoods.
Yet another option will present itself once a series of proposed changes take place in the Wild Life Act, including the creation of two new categories of PAs: Community Reserves and Conservation Reserves. Instead of denotifying current PAs, they could be converted into such new categories. There is also the possibility, already used in some places, to create appropriate no-use and multiple use zones, within each PA. Such zonation should be planned with local communities, and legally sanctified, otherwise it will be of little practical relevance.
Final hearings are ongoing in the WWF case. The Supreme Court must be made aware of the results of its order, and urged to direct the preparation of detailed guidelines for the settlement process. These guidelines should direct the establishment of customary bona fide rights of local people, specify a reasonable time frame, and stop state governments from deleting/denotifying PAs except where there is absolutely no wildlife value left. Special officers must be appointed for this purpose, and the process must be fully participatory. A group of conservation and social action NGOs has filed an intervention in the ongoing case to this effect, and WWF-I has committed to taking up the matter with the central government and the Court.
Another opportunity that must be seized is the Committee to Rationalise the Boundaries of PAs, set up by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. Consisting mostly of wildlife conservationists, this Committee is expected to recommend a re-alignment, where necessary, of boundaries of individual PAs to help enhance their ecological viability and to avoid conflicts with local communities. However, it is critical that this Committee does not fall into the same trap that many District Collectors are falling into, by recommending deletions or denotifications in a bid to avoid the more complicated, but much more preferable, process of integrating livelihoods with PA management objectives.
A national workshop on these issues (Third National Consultation on Wildlife Conservation and People's Livelihood Rights, 1-3 May, 1999) was recently organised by Ekta Parishad and Kalpavriksh in Bhopal. Over 50 social activists, villagers, and conservationists, who participated, demanded that deletions or denotifications be minimised, and advocated a "new model of conservation that involves local people in the planning, management, and monitoring of wildlife habitats, including protected areas…which ensures the livelihood security of local communities and the conservation of natural resources and wildlife, by: integrating traditional and modern ecological knowledge, ensuring customary rights and responsibilities over natural resources, strengthening village-level institutions and capacities, coordinating various government-level departments, and formulating enabling laws and policies."
Settlement of rights as it is currently going on, will threaten any move towards such a new model. The process needs immediate re-orientation, both to avoid the destabilisation of India's last great wildlife habitats, and the undermining of the livelihood base of millions of people.
PROTECTED AREAS Update is produced every two months, as a follow-up to the workshop on Exploring the Possibilities of Joint Protected Area Management (JPAM), organised at the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), New Delhi, in September 1994.
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 15, 2000
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