IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 5 Issue II
This issue of IndiaWilds newsletter talks about problems of feeding our wild animals and birds as well as feral dogs and various other conservation issues.
Conservation is not just Animal Welfare
Conservationists are often mistaken as animal welfare activists. A lot of people wanting to help save our wildlife readily take to feeding birds and animals.
It is important that we raise awareness about the problems of feeding our wild animals and birds as well as feral dogs.
There are people who feel that it is important to feed birds and animals as a matter of faith. So in cities we find a lot of people feeding pigeons and dogs. This results in the population of pigeons increasing and displacing smaller birds like sparrows. Similarly, a lot of people as well as animal welfare activists feed street dogs in various parts of our country. Our love for animals leads us to feed the street dogs. I too used to do it when I was a kid. Whereas, animal welfare is good, one ought to understand the consequences of each of our actions.
Apart from the food given by people, due to our wasteful nature and the improper garbage disposal, a lot of street dogs find food. They out compete our traditional scavengers like vultures and jackals.
The vulture population, nearly decimated by the use of the deadly diclofenac for treatment of cattle is trying to stage a grim battle for survival. In some places there have been reports of the vulture population bouncing back but that is too less to celebrate. I drove about 4000 kilometers in Odisha, Rajasthan and Gujarat, however, I found very few signs to be happy.
I have sat on carcasses during day as well as night to check the type of scavengers and I was disappointed to see that the dogs out compete the jackals. Only the wild boars could keep the dogs at bay and feed on the carcass. In one instance a porcupine was chased away by two village dogs when the porcupine was scavenging on garbage dumped by tourists.
I also got first hand information of these village dogs teaming up and hunting deers in Keoladeo Ghana bird sanctuary in Bharatpur as well as in Bandhavgarh. There are also many similar reports from other places. We have to act else this problem will continue to haunt and act like a silent killer of our wild birds and animals.
Since we can’t improve upon the garbage disposal of our civic bodies overnight – though we need to raise our voice – we should also stop dumping waste and take steps to control our feral dog population. Our animal rights activists need to be made aware that by narrowly focusing on providing food and shelter for the street dogs, they are impacting our wildlife. In fact there are many animal cruelty issues that they should work on like the gruesome cockfights where sharp blades are tied to the leg of a cock and they are made to fight each other. Our short film on the issue with subtitles on English can be seen here:
Feeding/Baiting of wildlife:
In some places, animals are fed due to religious reasons. For example a temple serves sweetened rice to jackals. What had started as an one off feature by a sadhu has now increased in size and lot of people flock to see it.
In another case, the forest department in Daroji Bear Sanctuary, feeds jaggery, honey and bananas to sloth bears. It had started by a ranger as a food supplement, and has now grown into a tourist attraction.
There are several wildlife photographers who place mice to attract owls and eagles. There are other photographers who carry fish and feed the eagles so that they come close. Some of them defend these actions by saying that they are indeed helping the wildlife to survive the lean months, harsh winter etc. Unfortunately, these actions don’t help in conservation.
The birds that are on their migratory paths stay back longer if they are fed mice and other such food. They get used to feeding by people. Their behaviour pattern changes. They expend less amount of energy in hunting or searching for food. So they put on more weight, and their agility decreases.
The rodents caught near the households are likely to have more exposure to pesticides than the ones in a forest. By carrying a few rats and feeding the owls or eagles, we are in fact injecting more pesticides into their system, than they would have got in their natural course of action.
Also photographers tend to tie the mice etc on the same tree or perch which they have specifically planted for a getting a “clean background” (a term to indicate a well diffused background). Repeatedly tying bait to the same spot makes the place un-clean and the birds tend to contract infections.
It is also important that we raise awareness about baiting ie enticing an animal or bird to appear in the scene. Some of the photographers who are were not aware about the ethical aspects and the impact of their behaviour on birds and animals will realise and stop. However, there will always be some people who will take more time to be convinced or will not want to be convinced as they find photographing through baiting is easy and is often lucrative.
Similar thing happens with songbirds who are fed litres and litres of syrup. They stay longer than necessary. Scientific studies have indicate that they it also affects their breeding. Valentin Amrhein, zoologist at the University of Basel, who led a study on songbirds have found that feeding them delays their dawn chorus or singing by as much as twenty minutes. It found that 36% of Great Tit’s skipped their dawn chorus altogether. The morning songs by the male songbirds are for warding off their competitors as well as to increase their chances of mate selection. This study suggests that if one continues feeding the birds even after winter than it impacts their reproduction. It is tough to educate people the exact time to stop feeding etc. Completely discouraging feeding is a much better option considering the welfare of these songbirds.
When the baiting/food supplements are stopped for some reason after a few years, the birds and animals have no-where to go. They find it difficult to cope up with this problem. They would have forgotten their migratory paths.
Supplying water to wild animals:
Recently, Bandipur and Nagarhole the two popular national parks of Karnataka have got less rainfall and a number of waterholes have dried up. It is another matter, that Bandipur had a lot of man-made waterholes. The wildlife photographers as well as visitors were annoyed that the forest department hasn’t taken any action to mitigate the drought like conditions. Predictably, the forest department was ready to use water tankers to supply water to the waterholes.
In nature, the fittest survive. The old and the weak die when there is harsh summer, drought, harsh winter etc. This leaves behind the strongest and the fittest. This natural selection results in the healthy genes getting transmitted to the next generation. So each generation becomes stronger and have more ability to adapt to changing conditions.
Due to scarcity of water, a lot of bushes have dried up. Along with the native vegetation, a lot of exotic lantana bushes which were throttling the native vegetation have also dried up. In such times, forest fires can happen and these dried vegetation burns fast. The forest department also has a protocol for controlled burning. After the burning and rains the fresh shoots come up and native vegetation has a chance to start afresh. This is in fact a good time for the forest department to intervene and burn off the lantana to help the native vegetation. The forest department’s job is protection and managing the protected area in an ecologically sound manner. If the forest department in Kabini and Bandipur are serious, then they would take steps to control the lantana during this time rather than carrying tanker loads of water for the wildlife.
Unfortunately, people don’t realise that conservation of wildlife needs a holistic perspective and is to be rooted on science. Conservation is also not a short-term action, rather it is an initiative that has to take several seasons and decades into perspective before suggesting any action. Trying to play God and create a short-term impact is easy. Creating sustainable long-term solutions is not easy, so it has few takers.
We rejoice when a tiger is airlifted from Ranthambhore to Sariska. It attracts lot of media attention, and predictably it has started attracting ministers and senior officials to be present during such interventions. Unfortunately, nobody tries to create a long term solution in the form of reestablishing a corridor. The late Rajesh Pilot was one politician who was favourable to the idea, even though his village Dausa would have been included in that corridor. Do we have scientists, NGOs, and conservationists to champion these long-term conservation issues?
Leopards : The Last Battle:
Other Conservation News:
Firing range close to Lion habitat
Rhino poaching: 9th Rhino poached
Impact of Photographers on Grassland ecosystem:
New Species of Fish discovered in Arunachal Pradesh
Reckless behaviour of Tourists at Tadoba : Praveen Siddannavar
Egyptian Vulture with Plastic: Sucheth Lingachar
How Owls Swivel their Heads:
Unusual Feeding Behaviour of Grey-headed Fish Eagle: Vikas Madhav
Barbet thrashing garden lizard: Roopak Gangadharan
Upright walk of the Mugger:
Please welcome our new members as well as introduce yourself if you haven’t already:
Nikon’s new Digital Camera D7100
Canon Cinema C300 camera review updated:
Sounds of Nature:
Pied Hornbill Call
Cicada Call: V S Sankar
Image of the Month:
Jan 2013 – Anshul Jain
A selection of images of IndiaWilds members that are either beautiful, feature rare species, behvaiour and action
Desert Fox by Mrudul Godbole
Dholes of Periyar Tiger Reserve: Mohan Raj
Gaur from Tadoba: Gajanan Bapat
Greater cormorant profile by Dr. Kalpamoi Kakati
Short eared owl by Mrudul Godbole
Cormorant Flight by Dr. Kalpamoi Kakati
Pygmy Woodpecker by Dr. Jitendra Katre
Owlet pair by Bibhav Behera
Owlet closeup by Anand Madabhushi
Kanchenjunga by Mashiur Rahman
Deomali by Parth Pratim Patra
I look forward to your inputs and support in preserving the last tracts of wilderness and wildlife left in our beautiful country. For other interesting articles and images check – http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/
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