Sabyasachi Patra

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 12 Issue VIII

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 12 Issue VIII

ISSN 2394 – 6946

Download the full Newsletter PDF by clicking the below button –
IndiaWilds Newsletter-PDF-August-2020 (6.2 MB, 5 downloads)

World Elephant Day brings no cheer for Elephants:

IndiaWilds Newsletter PDF-August-2020

IndiaWilds Newsletter PDF-August-2020

World Elephant Day is celebrated on August 12th 2020 as an international annual event, dedicated to the preservation and protection of the world’s elephants.  The goal of World Elephant Day is to create awareness on elephant conservation, and to share knowledge and positive solutions for the better protection and management of wild and captive elephants. However, every year despite these celebrations, elephants are facing huge challenges for survival.

Asian elephants are listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. This has been done most of the range states except India, have lost their viable elephant populations due to loss of habitats & poaching etc.  The current population estimates indicate that there are about 50,000 -60000 Asian elephants in the world. More than 60 % of the population is held in India.

Indian Elephant has also been listed in the Appendix I of the Convention of the Migratory species in the recently concluded Conference of Parties of CMS 13 at Gandhi Nagar, Gujarat in February 2020. A few years ago, Elephant was declared as the Natural Heritage Animal of our country and India also celebrates this day to spread awareness towards conservation of the species.

This year, a few people participated in the official celebration and most of the participation as well as celebrations happened online.  Speaking on the world Elephant Day even in New Delhi, the Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change asserted that Government is committed to find a lasting and robust solution to end human-elephant conflict. He said “Efforts are in full swing to provide food and water to the animals in the forests itself to deal with the growing human-animal conflict cases”. The minister said that the solutions have to be practical and cost effective.

He also stressed on capacity building and training of the forest staff. A pictorial guide of a variety of management inventions successfully adopted by the elephant range states was released in the event. This booklet is expected to serve as a reference manual for adoption of the best possible site specific mitigation measures that can be adopted to reduce human – elephant conflict.

Minister of State in the Environment Ministry, Shri Babul Supriyo expressed satisfaction over the growing number of elephants in the country. He said, there is a need to save Elephants and deal with the Elephant-Human conflict firmly. He said, killing of innocent animals will not be tolerated by the Government and the Central Government is adopting the best practices to deal with human animal conflict.

These statements clearly shows that the ministers and Government simply doesn’t understand the problem and is not keen on taking concrete steps to resolve the core issue of human-elephant conflict.

It would be really beneficial if the Central Government can adopt best practices for resolving the challenges of human-elephant conflict. Too often the so called best practices are simply limited in scope.

Several state Governments are also talking about planting more fruit bearing trees in the forests so that elephants can remain within the forests and find food. This is partially correct. It is a fact that the biodiversity of our forests have gone down. Invasive weeds like lantana, parthenium etc are outcompeting native vegetation in many forests. So it is difficult for our herbivores to find food. If forest department gets funds to do regular removal of invasives then native vegetation can regenerate and help the elephants and other herbivores find better food.

Elephant feeding grass in exotic infested landscape

Elephant feeding grass in exotic infested landscape

The Government and people also need to realise that there is a major challenge to our forests due to collection of NTFP (Non timber forest produce). Historically forest dwellers have been collecting NTFP for their own use. However, with increased commercialization it is becoming very tough as everyday thousands of people are entering into the forests. Since the last one and half decades there has been increased demand for ayurvedic products. Ayurvedic juices like aamla juice, aloevera juice etc have become very popular. Historically people used to collect aamla from forests and gardens. These days we hardly have any land where we grow fruit bearing trees. So most of the aamla collection is from the forests. With 140 crore people in this country the pressure on forest is huge. This leads to paucity of forest produce like aamla, other fruits and berries and medicinal herbs. A lot of adulteration is being reported in the ayurvedic medicines due to high demand and lower availability. So the Government should realise this and ear mark more lands around forests for growing these fruit bearing trees. Instead of community plantations of invasive eucalyptus fruit bearing trees should be considered so that the anthropogenic pressures on the forest is less.

The fruit bearing trees like aamla, wild mangoes, jack fruit etc grow in different seasons. So mega herbivores like elephants visit these areas in different seasons or in times when there is fruit. On other times the elephants have to move out of the specific wildlife sanctuary in their age old migratory corridors.

Lot of money is spent in creating barricades and raising solar fencing to stop elephant moving into agricultural fields. Several incidents have happened where villagers have chased elephants and to escape elephants have tried to climb over barricades and have got stuck and died. Simply prohibiting an elephant by erecting barricades or solar fencing results in pushing the problem away to another place. So instead of feeding in one village agricultural field the elephants are pushed away to another. Also, this approach of erecting barricades is difficult for elephants as these are blockages in their traditional migratory corridors. So elephants will always try to follow their age old migratory corridors and hence wherever possible they will push the barriers. So this approach of erecting barriers doesn’t solve the human-elephant challenge.

Elephant on fence

Elephant on fence

The Government has to look at the core issue that results in human-elephant conflict. Elephants are designed by nature to feed 13-14 hours a day. Much of the vegetation that an elephant eats comes out semi-digested or undigested out of its gut. So many seeds get dispersed by the elephants as they come out intact in the elephant dung and also gets enough manure in the form of the dung to grow after germination. To feed through out the day, elephants have to keep on moving. If elephants are confined to a small sanctuary, then there will be no forage left. Also, elephants feed on a variety of plants, fruits, leaves etc which grow in different seasons and in different locations. So elephants need to travel. Unfortunately, the Government hasn’t realized this fact and hence wants elephants to be confined to a few National parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Much of the elephant habitat is outside the protected area network.

The Elephant Task Force report had done a good job in identifying the key issues in human-elephant conflict. In the elephant task force report, experts had concluded that it is important to secure the elephant habitat that falls outside the ambit of protected area network. With increase in price of land, it would be difficult task to acquire land later. Government has to immediately take steps to acquire land contiguous with the forest so that the elephant habitat is protected. The government should start acquiring land in high conflict areas so that there is a safe passage for elephants during their migration.

Elephants to survive have to visit the areas that they have been visiting since ages. However, once human habitations come up in these areas, the conflict starts because settlers who haven’t seen wildlife before don’t know how to react. Their immediate reaction is fear and aggression towards elephants. So elephants too charge at people and conflict starts.

The settlers also grow crops that are suitable for elephants. Crops like paddy and other cereals are highly nutritious and hence elephants prefer those. Farmers will easily resent when they see elephants feeding on their crops and start chasing the elephants using flames, firecrackers and bombs. In conflict zones, the level of stress in the elephants are high. Same elephants who charge at people in conflict zones become silent and tolerant of humans in other places.

Forest department has to immediately do survey of crop loss and quickly give compensation to farmers. This will help farmers keep quiet and not retaliate. If fair compensation is provided then farmers would infact be happy because their cost of harvesting and transporting their produce to markets will be saved. Also, due to the archaic APMC act, farmers can only sell their produce in mandis (local markets) in a limited radius. So the price they get from middlemen for their farm produce is very less. Compensation for crop loss should be built-in while preparing the annual forest department budgets.

In USA, around Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife refuge and other places landowners grow corn to help sandhill cranes who arrive in huge numbers. Photographers turn out to photograph them and the landowners make more money from tourists. So forest department in India should partner with various NGOs and train locals living in elephant habitat and they can help report about elephant movement and also benefit from any tourism activity. This has the potential to increase the economic activities.

If more tourists move around these fields in search of elephants and other herbivores, then the tourism pressure on the main forests would reduce.

The Central Government should also coordinate between different state Governments that when elephants try to move from one state boundary to another the state forest departments and people should not do anything to hinder their movement. Trying to push them away creates more conflict and more loss of life of humans as well as elephants. Government should in the short term be ready with quick compensations to people for loss of property, crop and life and in the long-run elephant habitat should be bought acquired by Government. These days various National Parks have made foundations and hence can accept donations. These foundations along with NGOs can collectively act in raising resources apart from the Government budget support and then buy and secure the elephant corridors and habitat. Securing of the elephant habitat along with adequate protection will result in long lasting peace between humans and elephants. Else, we will continue to celebrate World Elephant Day but elephants will continue to die.



Khichan: Home to Demoiselle cranes

By Mrs. Shakti Bishnoi & Mr. AS Bisnoi 

Khichan: Home to Demoiselle Cranes

 

Conservation News:

Minister claims Government focused on enhancing forest quality and increasing tree cover

India’s minister in charge of the environment ministry claimed that “Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) is focused on enhancing forest quality and increasing tree cover for maximizing carbon stock.” This happened in the States Forest Minister’s Conference held in New Delhi on 17th August, 2020. Apart from Prakash Javadekar who holds dual charge of the heavy industries as well as the environment ministry, the Minister of State in the Environment Ministry, Shri Babul Supriyo, other officials in the Ministry, Chief Ministers of the State of Arunachal Pradesh and Goa, Deputy Chief Ministers and 24 Forest Ministers from various States participated in the four-hour long meeting held via video conferencing.

Shri Javadekar further said during his address that, “We have taken many initiatives to bring out transformational changes in our policies and programmes and implement several schemes which includes massive tree plantation, promoting urban forestry through Nagar Van Scheme, Landscape based catchment treatment of 13 major rivers, LiDAR based survey of degraded forest areas for soil moisture conservation projects and launch of National Transit Portal to facilitate smooth movement of Forest produce.” These efforts are critical to meet our national and international goals under National Forest Policy, Nationally Determined Commitments and restoration of degraded forest land, said Shri Javadekar.

Experts have often pointed out that you can plant trees but you can’t create forests. The urban tree plantations, much of which are monocultures, doesn’t do much good to wildlife. When we look at forests we see individual trees or bushes. However, scientists have found that below the ground trees have complex root networks along with micorrhiza in the root tips and they provide support to various other trees like a community. And above the ground in the forests there are complex inter-relationships between various species, trees as well as animals, birds, reptiles, insects etc. The Government while taking credit for various tree plantation projects are giving away pristine forests to industries as well as for dams and other projects. The potential of hard growth trees in carbon sequestration is far higher than younger plantations. So planting trees in lieu of forests diverted for industrial use or for dams, mines, canals and other projects results in huge harm to the environment as there is less carbon captured by the trees. So it is bad for environment, forests and also climate change. The new forest classification counts these tree plantations by communities as well as commercial plantations as forest. So we are of the view that Hon’ble Ministers claim of Government being focused on increasing forest quality is not rooted in facts.

The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in his independence day speech had announced the launch of Project Lion and Project Dolphin. The Union Environment Minister said that the government will launch a holistic Project Dolphin in a fortnight, for the conservation and protection of the Dolphins in the rivers and in oceans of the country.

Project Dolphin will involve conservation of Dolphins and the aquatic habitat through use of modern technology specially in enumeration and anti-poaching activities. The project will engage the fishermen and other river/ ocean dependent population and will strive for improving the livelihood of the local communities. The conservation of Dolphin will also envisage activities which will also help in the mitigation of pollution in rivers and in the oceans. A big problem faced by cetaceans is the noise in the water by motor boats and propellers. Since the dolphins use ecolocation, the sound of motor boats create lot of stress for them. India is converting many rivers into waterways by stopping the flow of water using barrages. So this is at cross-purpose with the objective of preserving aquatic fauna like Dolphins.

The Union Minister also stated that the government is working towards the Project Lion, that will involve conservation of the Asiatic Lion and its landscape in a holistic manner. The Project Lion will entail habitat development, engage modern technologies in Lion management and address the issues of disease in Lion and its associated species through advanced world-class research and veterinary care. The project will also address Human-wildlife conflict and will be inclusive involving local communities living in the vicinity of Lion landscape and will also provide livelihood opportunities. For years, scientists have been wanting a second home for the lions, and Kuno-Palpur wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh was found to be ideal habitat. The government of MP went ahead and relocated villagers from within the sanctuary to make it ready for lions. However, Gujarat Government has been steadfast in its refusal to release lions for creating a second home at Kuno-Palpur wildlife sanctuary. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has also given its verdict and asked for lions to be released for Kuno-Palpur sanctuary, but the Gujarat Government and now the Central Government doesn’t care for it. Lions are seen from the narrow view of tourism and Gujarat doesn’t want to allow any other state to have lions. Despite the same party being in power in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and in the centre, the shifting of lions is not happening. In the mean while, lions are facing a tough challenge in Gir and are on their own trying to move out and live in farms and other rural areas. They are increasingly being found roaming around in streets. Many are dying due to electrocution in the farms or by falling into wells. So unless the central Government is going to solve the core issue of lions i.e. creating new home for them, the Asiatic Lion project is not likely to solve the problem.

Lion cub from Gir

Lion cub from Gir                                                                Photo Courtesy – Anand Madabhushi

At the meeting, Shri Javadekar stressed that states should use CAMPA funds exclusively for afforestation and plantation. “I announce that 80% of afforestation fund shall be utilized only for afforestation/plantation and the rest 20% can be used for capacity building etc. The Centre in August 2019 released Rs. 47,436 crores CAMPA funds for afforestation to various states. Ministry is also going to announce implementation of School Nursery Scheme shortly, said the Union Environment Minister during the meeting.

The Nagar Van Scheme which was announced on this World Environment Day for creation of 200 Nagar Van, on forest land by adopting a collaborative approach, involving various agencies like forest and other departments, NGOs, Corporate Bodies, Industries etc, was also discussed at length during the course of the meeting. Initially, the Ministry will be giving grants for fencing and soil moisture works. The primary objective is to create forested area in cities with Municipal Corporation, which will act as lungs of the cities.

School Nursery scheme which aims at involving school students from the young age in nursery and plantation operations was also elaborated and discussed during the course of the four-hour long meeting. The objective of the scheme is to inculcate the spirit of forest and environment in the mind of young students. Scheme guidelines will be shared with the States shortly.

Another important issue highlighted during the meeting by Shri Prakash Javadekar was the study given to ICFRE for river rejuvenation of 13 major rivers which will promote forestry along river, increase ground water recharge and reduce erosion. Similarly, LiDAR technology, an airborne remote sensing method which will assist in identification of the degraded land for construction of soil and water conservation structures and launch of a nationwide National Transit Portalto promote smooth inter-state movement of forest produce, whose pilot was launched recently was also an agenda item of the meeting.

During the meeting the States gave their status of preparedness for implementation of various programmes initiated by Ministry and also conveyed their willingness to associate with all other initiatives of Government of India to promote green cover. States showed enthusiasm and expressed cooperation with MoEF&CC in this endeavour.

 

All regional offices of the Ministry brought under one roof

With a view to achieving outcomes related to the mandates of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in an improved, timely and effective manner, and for this purpose to further enhance its outreach to stakeholders, undertake coordinated action and optimize the utilization of available resources, MoEFCC has approved establishment of 19 Integrated Regional Offices (IROs) of the MoEF&CC. These IROs will start functioning from October 1st, 2020.

The Integrated Regional Offices (IROs) will be established though redeployment of human and other resources available with 10 Regional Offices of ROHQ Division, 4 Regional Offices of Forest Survey of India (FSI), 3 Regional Centre of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), 4 Regional Offices of Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and 5 Regional Offices & 3 Sub-regional Offices of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) in an integrated manner, and their further strengthening. Thus, each IRO shall have representation from existing Regional Office/Regional Centre of MoEF&CC, FSI, NTCA, CZA and WCCB as available to them from time to time.

The headquarters and jurisdictions of the 19 IROs (Integrated Regional Offices) will be as under:

Headquarter of IRO States

Headquarter of IRO States

The head of each of the IRO will be called “Regional Officer” of MoEF&CC. Each of the above 19 Integrated Regional Offices (IROs) shall work as an integrated regional unit of the MoEF&CC in achieving the outcomes related to the mandate of theMinistry.



Equipment Discussions:

Canon announces new firmware for EOS R5 camera

Canon announces new firmware for EOS R5 mirrorless camera.

 

Natural History

COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M. Krishnan: ‘ March Roller‘ shared By Saktipada Panigrahi

https://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?8852-Country-notebook-m-krishnan&p=45308#post45308

 

Photography Tips – Learning Exposure

To make photography learning easier, we are creating a photography tutorial video series. The first part of photography tips is on learning exposure. Check it out in this link: https://youtu.be/PT3vvNIJx1g

 

Wildlife Photography

Indian Golden Jackal by Shyamala Kumar

https://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?19651-Indian-Golden-Jackal

Leopard by Mrudul Godbole

https://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?19648-Leopard-in-the-bush

Tiger by Sandipan Ghosh

https://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?19661-Tiger-of-Emerald-Forest

Silver-breasted-Broadbill by Samrat Sarkar

https://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?19657-Courtship-dance-of-Silver-breasted-Broadbill

Whistling Duck with brood by Shyamala Kumar

https://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?19662-Whistling-Duck-with-brood

Cat-Snake by Anil Kumar Verma

https://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?19650-Cat-Snake-s-Habitat

Planthopper ricaniidae by Jerin Dinesh

https://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?19649-Planthopper-ricaniidae-a-beautiful-creature

Moth by Prajwal Ullal

https://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?19653-The-vibrant-bowtie-d-gentleman

 

This is the 140th issue of IndiaWilds. The photograph of a young tiger cub adorns the cover page. If we were able to understand the thoughts of this tiger cub, then perhaps we would have realised that even the tigers realise that their future is not rosy. They have no idea about official tiger estimation statistics of tiger numbers increasing. Every other day some wildlife sanctuary or national Park loses a part of it to construction of roads, dams and industrial projects. Exotic weeds are overpowering the native vegetation. So hervibores which are the prey species of tigers don’t find it conducive to thrive. Poachers who are often hand in glove with the villagers are using snares as well as killing deers and other wildlife for meat and hide. In that situation, each tiger needs more space to find prey. Hence, the tigers have to fight with each other to survive. A tigress mother has to often fight with her adult cubs for space. It’s a tough life for tigers.

If we are able to create a holistic plan to integrate all wilderness areas so that wildlife can move in protected corridors from one place to other then there would be less infighting among tigers and there would be easier dispersal of tigers and other wildlife. The conflict with humans will also reduce. However, planning such a network of wildlife corridors to link all the protected areas is a big task which needs long-term planning. And our current rulers need new headlines for social media. There is no focus on long-term planning for environment, wildlife and wilderness areas. Hence our iconic species like tigers will continue to face an uncertain future.

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 –

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/

To post in the IndiaWilds forums, you can register free of cost using your Full Name as user id at:

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/register.php

If you are already a member of IndiaWilds and have forgotten your user id and/or password you can mail to:
administrator@indiawilds.com

 

Regards,

Sabyasachi Patra

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IndiaWilds Newsletter-PDF-August-2020 (6.2 MB, 5 downloads)
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