Sabyasachi Patra

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 11 Issue XII

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 11 Issue XII

ISSN 2394 – 6946

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IndiaWilds Newsletter-PDF-December-2019 (5.4 MB, 77 downloads)

White Tiger introduction: Converting Forests into Zoos

IndiaWilds Newsletter PDF-December-2019

IndiaWilds Newsletter PDF-December-2019

India’s wilderness and wildlife is under tremendous assault. Every other day a wilderness area falls under the malefic gaze of the Government which unhesitatingly is opening up our forests, swamps, mountains and other ecologically fragile areas for exploitation to serve the narrow short-sighted benefits of a few interest groups.

In a democracy there are institutions, regulatory bodies and arms of Government, which aid the decision making process. Unfortunately, the pressure from the Government is alarmingly moulding the opinions of the institutions, which were earlier set up to protect our wilderness and wildlife. Some of the decisions have been so far removed from the wildlife conservation requirements that one wonders whether all is well with these institutions.

One such case pertains to the advisory issued by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), which is engaged in training and advisory and research on biodiversity related issues since 1982. Its opinion is often sought to understand the impact of proposed projects on ecologically fragile areas. In recent times its advisory in many cases has raised eyebrows.

Some seven years ago the then Madhya Pradesh Government had come out with an idea of introducing captive bred white tigers into the wild. The Wildlife Institute of India had strongly opposed it and the plan was shelved. However, now out of the blue the WII officials have taken out the old files and given an opinion retracting their previous stand. The NTCA too seems to be fine and soon you may see white tigers being brought out from zoos and released in enclosures in Sanjay National Park.

This idea is purely driven by commerce. They want to increase tourist traffic to Sanjay National Park and they believe white tigers will help in that regard.

White tiger

White tiger                                                                              Photo Courtesy – online media

These days most of the tourist traffic is focused on the premier national parks. Other National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries get much less number of tourists as the chances of sighting of mega fauna is limited. When a forest loses its herbivores, it becomes difficult for the carnivores to sustain and they too have to move out of the forest or die due to lack of food. When tigers and leopards are not sighted, tourists lose interest in a place. So the authorities need to first ensure that the poaching of wildlife is stopped and anthropogenic pressures like cattle grazing, wood cutting, grass and other non-timber forest produce collection is controlled. Else, the herbivores cannot multiply. During the british era, hunters were killing several tigers in small patches. The presence of many tigers in small areas was possible due to the higher prey density in the areas. So several tigers were able to stay in smaller ranges. These days with lower prey density, individual tigers have to maintain large territories to be able to get sufficient prey for their own needs.

The prey density is also dependent on the richness of the food the prey species undertake. These days most of our forests are runover by invasive species, which out compete the native species. With the proliferation of invasive species the herbivores find it difficult to find enough food and hence the numbers of herbivores remain limited.

The role of the protected area managers is to manage the forest in an ecologically sound manner. The staff ought to undertake routine patrolling to bring the poaching under control and also to understand the potential issues in each part of the forest. However, these days in a majority of our protected areas the focus of the authorities is on tourists. They routinely talk about the total revenue earned from tourists in the forest under their control.

During the pre independence era, the British had brought woodcutter mentality to the forest department. At that time they used to view forests in terms of cubic feet of wood that can be harvested from each forest. That mentality had stayed back even after the British had left India. And these days, the protected area managers have shifted their revenue earning focus from woodcutting to tourism. Nevertheless, the short-term revenue earning focus has continued to be the bane of our Forest Department as well as Government.

These days there have been studies to quantify the carbon sequestration potential of various forests and estimate an economic valuation of each forest based on its biodiversity potential. Nevertheless, the focus on making quick money remains. And that is now again getting reflected in the efforts to release white tigers into the wild.

Folly of releasing White tigers into forest:

There was a time when Rewa of Madhya Pradesh was famous for its white tigers. The coat of the tigers used to be more pale than yellow and in some cases the coat had white and black stripes. However, its been years since the last white tiger has been sighted in the wild. All the white tigers that we find today are from a single stock and have been severely inbreed in zoo so that the recessive allele responsible for the white coat is expressed. These tigers have been zoo bred for generations. In Nandankanan Zoo in Odisha, three white tiger cubs were born to normal coloured parents Deepak and Ganga. Deepak was the father of Ganga. Later one of the cubs of Deepak and Ganga was mated with an unrelated white tigress Subhra to produce white tiger cubs. Repeated inbreeding resulted in many white tigers in Nandankanan zoo which were then sent to other zoos world over to create a large number of white tigers.

Being zoo bred, the white tigers have no idea about survival in the wild. They have no knowledge of hunting in the wild. In the wild it is a question of survival of the fittest.

Tigers despite their power and sudden burst of speed have to deal with the speed of the prey. And the prey species have multiple members and hence spotting a tiger becomes easy unless the tiger maintains extreme caution. So a tiger has to plan and replan its line of attack many times and even then the hunt is often unsuccessful. So releasing zoo bred tigers into the wild needs to be done with abundant caution and after a lot of training hunting live prey.

However the question still remains regarding the conservation value of a species reintroduction in the wild. Introducing white tigers means the genes of severely inbred tigers will get transmitted into the future tiger populations. Mixing of genetic cocktail to healthy populations is fraught with risks. It has the potential to not only transmit the physical problems faced by white tigers like scoliosis of spine, abnormal skull and facial features etc to the wild populations. It will compromise the ability of tigers in the future to fight against diseases and survive. Mapping of the genes of the present white tigers in the zoos have not yet been done. So exact severity of future challenges cannot be fully ascertained at the moment.

With the economy in doldrums, the Central Government has already stripped the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) of its surplus and transferred those to itself. Now the Government is looking at stripping the surplus of SEBI. So it is a fact that the Union Government will not leave any stone unturned. In that scenario the Madhya Pradesh State Government too may be pushing its officers to some how find way to increase income. So no wonder ecological considerations have taken a back seat. Nevertheless, this decision to release white tigers into Sanjay National Park also throws several others questions. Is it right to treat our National Parks only to generate revenue for the Government?

Our forests are repositories of our biodiversity. The way modern science is progressing in future it would be easier to unravel some of the secrets of nature. The field of Biomimetics is getting increased funding to research and create materials, products and machines that can mimic biological processes and help solve some of our human problems. Plants, trees and microorganisms are being used for drug discovery. So is it right to destroy our forests and lose our natural treasures even before our future generations have a chance to discover them?

Till date we have been trying to conserve so that we can profit from it in future. However, the legendary biologist George B. Schaller in his essay on Serengeti makes a point about preserving for the sake of preservation and not for profit.

Preservation for profit should not be the ultimate goal. Tanzania has maintained the Serengeti in spite of crushing social needs not for economic reasons but as a statement of the nation’s vision and identity. The Serengeti does, however, have inestimable value as a genetic storehouse of numerous species. At some future date, when we are ready to mend and restore what has been squandered, the grasses and animals may provide stock for rehabilitating other pastures. Parks such as the Serengeti also provide valuable natural laboratories, baselines against which changes elsewhere can be measured and placed into perspective. But, above all, certain places are so unique in the pleasure and inspiration they afford that they must be preserved without compromise as repositories of beauty-as living museums. They must remain unmanaged, as original fragments of our past. Unaffected by human greed, their survival will be witness to man’s moral obligation to society and to other species. And there must be a global commitment to maintain such cultural resources. As Edward Hoagland phrased it in another context, the Serengeti should be viewed as “the best and final future place to make a leisurely traverse or enjoy a camping trip that [is] not rooted in our century.”

Scientists studying human psychology are finding the benefits of staying close to nature. In today’s world the earth is burdened with more than seven billion people, which is way beyond its carrying capacity of 5 billion human population. So we find cities growing bigger and skyscrapers and concrete jungle becoming the norm. Devoid of minimum personal space, mental health is becoming one of the biggest casualties. In such a situation, people are yearning to find peace and solitude. So it is imperative that we tap our forests and other natural landscapes to act as a sponge to absorb our stress.

So the Government should rather stop the crowded and stressful jeep safaris where vehicles crowd around tigers. Instead the tourists should be allowed to trek and stay in tents and just relax and soak in the solitude of the forest. The experience would be therapeutic.

Nevertheless, with people wanting to grab attention of the people in power, they are fighting hard in a game of one-upmanship to do one egregious act after another to please their higher-ups. The fact that the Wildlife Institute of India has decided to simply throw out all the concerns expressed by the previous scientists and happily oblige present day politicians is perhaps a reflection of the social mores of the present day. Nevertheless, it is a massive cause for concern and doesn’t speak well about our priorities towards wildlife conservation in India.


Conservation News:

National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management

The Central Government has set up the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), Chennai to undertake studies and research in the area of Coastal Zone Management including coastal resources and environment.

The aims and Objectives of the Center are:
(i) Strive for being a World Class Knowledge Institution related to coastal zones, environment, resources and processes,
(ii) To promote integrated and sustainable management of the coastal and marine areas in India for the benefit and wellbeing of the traditional coastal and island communities, and(iii) Advice the Union and State Governments and other associated stakeholder(s) on policy, and scientific matters related to Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM).

The six (06) research divisions of the NCSCM are: Geospatial Sciences, Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Integrated Social Sciences & Economics, Coastal environmental impact assessment, Conservation of Coastal & Marine Resources, Knowledge, Governance and Policy, and Futuristic Research and Integrated Island Management Unit.

Survey of India and NCSCM have mapped the Hazard Line for the entire coast of India, which includes vulnerability mapping of flood, erosion and sea level rise. The outputs will be used by all the coastal States and UTs in managing coastal vulnerability in the coming years and as a tool for preparation of disaster management plans.

Read More..


National Afforestation Programme:

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is implementing plantation/afforestation schemes in the forest areas with participatory approach. The plantation species under the schemes is selected by the implementing agencies/the members of Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMC) on the basis of their needs, ecological conditions and other local factors in consultation with the Forest Department. The native forest species are encouraged for plantation in the forest areas giving importance to trees with multiple uses. MoEFCC has not issued any specific direction for plantation of fruit bearing trees as it is decided by the JFM Committees considering local conditions and the micro plan of the area.

The conservation and development of forest primarily involves three strategies – afforestation through natural/artificial regeneration, protection and management. The ministry is implementing three major schemes for development of forest areas i.e. National Afforestation Programme (NAP) scheme, National Mission for a Green India (GIM) and Forest Fire Prevention & Management Scheme (FFPM). While NAP is being implemented for afforestation of degraded forest lands, GIM aims at improving the quality of forest and increase in forest cover besides cross sectoral activities on landscape basis. The FFPM takes care of forest fire prevention and management measures. For scientific management of forests, the States prepare management plan called Working Plan which highlights various activities to be undertaken in a forest division for effective management of forest. The working plan is approved by the Ministry. Besides, the funds collected under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), as compensatory levies from states inter-alia, is also used in plantation activity including compensatory afforestation by States/UTs.

The overall objective of the National Afforestation Programme (NAP) scheme is ecological restoration of degraded forests and to develop the forest resources with peoples’ participation, with focus on improvement in livelihoods of the forest-fringe communities, especially the poor. NAP aims to support and accelerate the on-going process of devolving forest conservation, protection, management and development functions tothe Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) at the village level, which are registered societies. The scheme is implemented by three tier institutional setup through the State Forest Development Agency (SFDA) at the state level, Forest Development Agency (FDA) at the forest division level and JFMCs at village level.
The major components of the scheme includes afforestation under Seven plantation models, maintenance of previous years plantations and Ancillary Activities like soil and moisture conservation activities (SMC), fencing, overheads, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), micro-planning, awareness raising, Entry Point Activities (EPA) etc.

Read More..


Tiger Corridors in  India:

Tiger Corridors in India


Funds released for Project Tiger in Last Three Years:

Minister of State, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Shri Babul Supriyo’s written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha today on protection of endangered species.

Funds released for Project Tiger in last three years


Equipment Discussions:

Rode VideoMic NTG

Rode has announced the new VideoMic NTG, an interesting compact microphone bearing the highly regarded NTG name. It will be of use to youtubers, video content creators, Run-n-gun filmmakers, voiceover artists and podcasters…

VideoMic NTG


Leica M10 P White

Leica has launched a limited edition M10 camera in white colour.

Leica M10–P ‘White’


Natural History

COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M. Krishnan: ‘ Hazaribagh Sambar‘ shared By Saktipada Panigrahi


Wildlife Photography

Tiger in Kabini by Shyamala Kumar

Leopard with cub by Vipin Sharma

Rhinoscape by Samrat Sarkar

Deer in Sundarbans by Mrudul Godbole

Brown Shrike by Arun Acharjee

Blue-cheeked Beeeater by Raj Dhage

Common cerulean  by Prajwal Ullal

Tiger close-up by Sabyasachi Patra


This is the 132nd issue of IndiaWilds. With this issue we complete our 11th year of uninterrupted publication. The photo of a tiger in a grassland enjoying the early morning Sun adorns the cover page of this issue. Tiger is the apex predator in most of the forest landscapes in our country. The health of the tiger indicates the overall health of the ecosystem as the predators, prey as well as millions of other species including herpetofauna and microorganisms are tightly bound with each other by a complex web of ecological inter-relationships. One cannot survive without the other. Modern science is yet to unravel the myriad of ways the species are dependent on each other. So it is very important to protect our biodiversity so that future generations can discover the mysteries as well as derive abundant pleasure by watching the languid grace of a wild tiger and other species.

Our forests and wildlife have been bequeathed on us. It belongs to all of us and to the entire earth. Let us not devastate our wild landscapes for the satiating our greed. As the year 2019 comes to an end, we are more conscious of the fact that sudden extreme weather events triggered by climate change has become the norm. So it is time to think of protecting our natural heritage. We can’t remain silent spectators when our natural heritage is vandalised. All of us need to realise that we have a duty to raise our voice to protect our wild lands, our life harbouring ecosystems, as the quality of our life is intricately linked with the health of our nature and environment.

I look forward to your inputs and support in preserving the last tracts of wilderness and wildlife left in our beautiful country and raising awareness about it. For other interesting articles and images check –

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IndiaWilds Newsletter-PDF-December-2019 (5.4 MB, 77 downloads)
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