IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 2 Issue VI

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 2 Issue VI

Why conservation has failed in this country?

I have often heard people bemoaning that India is still known for elephants or snake charmers rather than its prowess in IT, telecom etc. People feel ashamed being asked about tigers or elephants and try to justify that they stay in modern cities far removed from forests. They fail to fathom the rich treasures nature has bestowed on us. They fail to appreciate that the tigers and elephants of this land are deeply ingrained in our culture. I won’t blame people, because they have not been taught to appreciate these. Whose fault is it?

Conservationsists! Pat came the answer from my friend.

If it is the responsibility of the conservationists, then where are they?
Well, however hard I tried to think, I could not find conservationists. Various names of people, NGOs etc started flooding my mind and I started eliminating one by one.

I thought of tour operators as they call themselves conservationists. What brand of conservation do they engage in? I could not remember a tourism operator, hotelier, agent etc nurturing and bringing to life a wilderness area. They follow successful conservation efforts like the way a wildeebeast follows rains during its migration. They will flock to a park after sightings of the megafauna increases. They talk of conservation solely to maximise their profits through tourism. So each tiger is valued according to the revenue potential. They place the interests of their clients over wildlife or wilderness areas. In one case, a big and reputed tourism operator used to take their clients to a spot in the night where a tigress used to cross the road with her cubs. The jostling for prime position had extended from the day to night time as well. After a few days, the tigress had enough and she changed her timings forcing all the tour operators – big and small – to stop.

Wildlife Photographers:

Moving from one National Park to another, these wildlife photographers click or “shoot” as they call it wildlife. Ofcourse they bring joy to themselves and to others who watch the photos of magnificent wildlife; they never utter a word to save or conserve wilderness areas or wildlife. A recent case in the point is the death of a tigress in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve; who jostled with each other to photograph her, irritate her by blocking her road and hence forcing her to snarl. When she was run over by a vehicle inside the reserve, the silence among the photographers was deafening.

A part of me is a wildlife photographer. I have clicked many photos of this tigress without stressing her. However, I have been repeatedly asking myself if I have done my duty in raising my voice and helping nab the culprits. My personal views on this incident can be found here (

There are too many gory tales of wildlife photographers trying to get a photo at the cost of seriously distressing wildlife, from pulling out a snake from the hole in the ground for photographing it, to destroying the nest of an endangered raptor so that others can’t photograph itthe list is pretty long and shocking. For wildlife photographers, Conservation is definitely not the claim to fame.

Wildlife NGOs:

On the surface they appear to be the ones championing the cause of wildlife. A closer look, and you will realise that 99% of the NGOs are created for making money. This doesn’t mean that no one is working for wildlife. The rest 1% may be divided between the small and the big players.

The well meaning smaller NGOs are mostly fighting a loser’s battle due to lack of resources or ideas or both. Some of the large NGOs are focused primarily on creating infrastructure like schools, hospitals etc inside the wilderness areas rather than thinking about the wilderness area. There are a few who are focused on tracking and prosecuting wildlife trafficking. Successful prosecution can act as a big deterrent. However, there are instances when agents in the guise of traders are helping in creating a pseudo demand and that leads to killing of endangered species. And there are some others who feel that only awareness creation is conservation. And to make matters worse, each thinks that only their work is good.

Wildlife Researchers:

Our wildlife researchers are supposed to be at the forefront of research and the common man is often in awe hearing some of the esoteric techniques used in conservation. The information obtained from their research is at times very important and influences our approach towards conservation. Does that make them true conservationists?

A recent incident in the Wildlife Institute of India, where the authorities set fire to trees to ward away a leopard coming into the campus to drink water shows that there is a huge gap between what they preach and practice. (For further details you may check here ). This may have been the most muddle headed and unfortunate incident; however, this is not just an isolated incident. There are too many reports of reputed researchers championing the cause of research or infrastructure projects ruining our wilderness places. Similarly, there are no dearth of researchers who have bought land or taken land as grant from the Government and unwilling to part with it even though wildlife migratory corridors are getting affected.

Among the young breed of research scholars, often use of a new technique or tool is the primary focus. Every animal is viewed as a potential opportunity to employ an invasive technique, which often defies logic. Often the primary goal is just a research paper, PhD degree etc but not conservation. I wish there is a holistic perspective, transparency and collaboration so that researchers don’t end up investigating the same hypothesis in different parts of the country.

George Schaller, perhaps one of the greatest naturalists of the 20th century, in an interview to Data Quest magazine had said: “Field biologists, such as Karanth and Chundawat, can use technology in the form of satellite radio-collars, camera-traps, DNA analysis of scats and other techniques to determine population size, movement patterns, and other aspects. That provides extremely valuable information. Such knowledge is essential for conservation but it is not conservation. Conservation, in the final analysis, is culture, economics and politics,”

Culture, economics and politics! I guess we are now back to square one. It’s better to leave this exercise of finding a conservationist to another day.

Of course, there is always an exception in life. A number of you are among those exceptions, and I am sure you all will agree that there is a need to bring a change in our approach to conservation.

Another Tiger Death and the State of affairs of Wildlife in the Madhya Pradesh:

The Nation was rocked by the news that the Jhurjhura tigresses has been runover by a vehicle in the Bandhavgarh tiger reserve. Initially a tourist vehicle was blamed. Later on it emerged that the forest department was trying its best to shift the blame on the tourists. Unconfirmed reports from locals as well as media suggest the involvement of a Madhya Pradesh minister’s relative. Only three junior officials have been suspended. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) report has suggested a CBI enquiry to uncover the truth. To learn more details about the incident and to raise your voice you may check here:

It would be good of you, if you too can raise your voice asking for a CBI enquiry to be conducted to unravel the truth.

Reward for wiping out tigers in Panna:

Public memory is short. However, it is not too short to forget the wiping out of tigers in Panna Tiger Reserve. Despite Dr. Raghu Chudawat – who was engaged in research in Panna – raising his voice about the dangers afflicting Panna, the Tiger Reserve authorities led by Field director Dr H S Pabla kept on insisting that all was well in Panna. Finally, when truth came out that the tiger population in Panna has been wiped out; the concerned officers were shifted out. Now Dr. H S Pabla – who can be termed as an accomplice in the crime, as he resisted all attempts to save Panna’s tigers – has been rewarded with the role of Principal Chief Conservator (Forests). For further details please check here:

Looking at these two incidents, one wonders whether the Madhya Pradesh Government is indeed serious about protecting tigers and wildlife. It may be pertinent to mention that Madhya Pradesh was the last State to sign the tripartite MoU with centre and NTCA (for details check here ) and only did so after a lot of effort and campaigns. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which is ruling the state of Madhya Pradesh, calls itself the party with a difference. Is this how it is making a difference?

I am sure many of you would like to ask this question to the Hon’ble CM of Madhya Pradesh Shri Shivraj Singh Chauhan and the BJP party Chief Shri Nitin Gadkari.

Conservation in India:

Some of the other key discussions in IndiaWilds:
A report about threats to Melagiri forests:

Sunderbans: Losing battle?

Ecotourism a Forestry Activity or Non-forestry activity?

Some good news from Kudremukh:

Human safaris endanger Jarawas

Wildlife Photography:

Every month we highlight a few images for their aesthetic abilities, natural history importance or for increasing our knowledge of a little known species. Please check the following links to access the images.

White throated Fantail by AB Apana

Cormorant by Praveen Siddannavar

Injustice by Neil Mehta (Image of one of the orphaned cubs of Jhurjhura tigress)

Yawning by Praveen Siddannavar

Dudhwa Rhino’s by Bibhav Behera

The moving starts, in a starry night by Jatinder Sawhney

Reflections in Hunder by Nikhilesh Mahakur

Olive Ridley Turtle egg laying by Nikhilesh Mahakur

Antlion of Anamalai by Mohan Raj

Greenish Chamelion by V S Sankar

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:

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Sabyasachi Patra
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