IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol.1 Issue XI

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol.1 Issue XI

Wildlife Sanctuaries in Africa and India- A comparison:

It is a good practice to do some benchmarking exercises. So to start with, I thought of having a look at African and Indian wilderness areas in terms of their size.

The National Parks in Africa are much bigger in size. For example Serengeti National Park is spread over an area of around 14700 square kilometres. Kruger in South Africa is spread over 19,633 km. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a massive 38000 square kilometres straddling across South Africa and Botswana with about one thirds of it in South Africa and the remaining in Botswana. The Governments of several countries in Africa are now engaged in greater ecological cooperation and have agreed to remove the fences, thereby creating much larger wilderness areas. For example the fences between Kruger of South Africa and Limpopo National Park of Mozambique and Gonarezhou National Park of Zimbabwe have been removed to create the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. This massive landscape measures about 24,000 square kilometres.

On the other hand, in India, our wildlife sanctuaries are much smaller. Most of the National Parks are less than 1000 square kilometres with a few exceptions like Corbett, Kanha, Simlipal, Manas, Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam, Namdapha etc. The small size of our wilderness areas at times are a result of being divided according to the state boundaries. So the same landscape is divided into Bandipur and Nagarhole in Karnataka, Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu, and Waynad in Kerala. Similarly, Anamalai or Indira Gandhi National Park in Tamil Nadu and Parambikulam in Kerala are contiguous.

Wildlife Sanctuaries: When Small is not beautiful:

This small size of sanctuaries not only results in fragmentation of habitats – as human habitation is invariable around these places – resulting in loss of genetic diversity, loss of migratory corridors. It also gives rise to multiplicity of authorities governing these wilderness areas. Our forests being a state subject, the jurisdiction over our wildlife preserves rests with the State authorities and this often comes in the way of scientific and efficient management of our wilderness areas. In the initial days of the Project Tiger, the Project Tiger authorities had to plead with the State Government to bring some of the wildlife reserves under the Project Tiger umbrella. It has also come in the way of repopulating our forests with wildlife from a wildlife reserve located in a different state. For example the Government of Gujarat these days doesn’t allow lions from Gir to be relocated to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. It never occurs to the authorities that a single epidemic can eradicate the entire population of lions numbering 300 odd from Gir. For details please check this discussion thread:

Also, one is not sure, whether a particular state Government will allow the relocation of a tiger from “their” forests to a forest located in another state. This is one of the unstated reasons for shifting tiger cubs from the same litter from Ranthambhore to Sariska, even though that meant creating a closed gene pool.

Similarly, protection and scientific management of the wilderness areas are under the State control. So when the National Tiger Conservation Authority wants a tripartite agreement to be signed to make the individual Tiger Reserve head to be accountable, the Government of MP disagrees. For details please check the following link:

Bifurcation of Annamalai (Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary):
Recently, a news item caught my attention. The Anamalai Tiger Reserve is to be bifurcated to increase the efficiency and help in curbing the sandalwood smuggling. The area of Anamalai is not even 1000 sq. kilometres. Does this need bifurcation?

When various African countries are engaged in greater ecological cooperation – removing the fences and creating much larger wilderness areas – why are we moving in the reverse path? The Animal landscape is not even 4% of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park (the landscape covering Kruger of South Africa, Limpopo of Mozambique and Gonarezhou of Zimbabwe) and we are talking of further bifurcating.

Tiger Death in Kanha: Is it due to High Density of Tigers?
Kanha was recently in the news when a young adolescent tiger aged about 14 months was killed by another tiger. The reasoning put forth by the field director was amusing to say the least. He attributed it to the so called high tiger density in Kanha. One must remember that the tiger density in Kanha is far less than places like Kaziranga, Nagarhole etc. The range of the tiger would be much smaller if the prey base is high. When the prey base is less, the chances of tiger cubs growing to adulthood is less, as the mother has to move in a wider area in search of prey. It also brings other tigers in contact with each other. It is unfortunate that the authorities – as has become the practice these days – choose the skirt the core reasons and try to peddle halftruths to defend themselves. For further details on this issue, please check the following link:

Conservation on Empty Stomach?
Are our wildlife and wilderness areas in safe hands? Are we doing the right things? The management of the wilderness areas needs to be on the basis of ecologically sound management principles. Our wildlife needs inviolate places. For example a tigress can’t give birth in an area frequented by people. Similarly, other species need inviolate spaces. The human settlements that have come up in various wilderness areas need to be resettled. The poaching is still continuing unabated. In the absence of strict patrolling to prevent poaching and swift prosecution of poachers, our wildife doesn’t have a good future. And how can strict patrolling be done when they guards are not paid for months together. Can conservation be done in an empty stomach? Please check the link to this discussion:

When our frontline soldiers in the protection of our wilderness areas (the forest guards, watchers etc) are either old and unfit, or not paid for months and several posts remaining vacant, the protection of our wilderness areas is not the way it should be.
Today, even a layman can safely assume that there needs to be a complete restructuring in the way our forests are managed.

Harmful effects of Plastics:
No talk about forests can be complete without the devastation that tourists or travellers passing through our wilderness areas cause by throwing away a plastic packet or two. When we throw away a wafers packet, herbivores attracted by the salt content chew it. Some die due to choking and others die when they are hit by a passing vehicle or train. The deadly impact of plastics in the Pacific has recently been documented by Chris Jordans. A study mentions that our common pills and plastics carelessly thrown away causes male fish to display feminine characteristics. For details on the impacts of plastics you can check the following thread:

Wildlife Photography:
I am sharing a few links to some of the fine images shared by our members:

Sambar counter-attacking dholes.

Black hooded Oriole with catch by Mrudul Godbole

Stork billed Kingfisher by Dipankar Mazumdar

Purple Sunbird by Jitendra Katre

Tranquil Sunset by Subramanya Shankar

Langoor by Govindarao Srinivasa Babu

Sunset @ Poovar Islands by Praveen Siddannavar

Dragonflies Mating by Abhishek Jamalabad

Blue Tiger Butterfly by Siddhartha Gogoi

Clownfish and Anemone by Dipankar Mazumdar

Monitor Lizard by Jitendra Katre

Photography Tips and Workflow:
A tutorial on image processing in lightroom. Members need to login to view this section.

Look forward to your inputs and your support in preserving the last tracts of wilderness and wildlife left in this beautiful country. For other interesting articles and photographs please check:

Sabyasachi Patra
Twitter: indiawilds
Facebook: indiawilds

(Circulated in November 2009)

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