Sabyasachi Patra

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol 2 Issue X

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol 2 Issue X

This issue of the IndiaWilds Newsletter brings into focus our skewed sense of priorities in conserving a few mega fauna; baiting wildlife, feral dogs menace and many more.

Skewed Conservation Priorities in India

There have been criticism about our conservation efforts having a very narrow species specific, infact megafauna centric approach. I recollect the passionate but slightly uninformed criticism of Project Tiger by one of the artists. The common example given is that Project Tiger was specific to tigers and was not interested in anything else. It is often acknowledged that the plight of the tiger – with tour operators organizing guided tours to hunt down the tiger – and the forceful voices of Billy Arjan Singh and Kailash Sankhala and the support of WWF International had motivated Mrs. Indira Gandhi to give the go ahead for the ambitious Project Tiger. A few nature preserves were created and unfortunately named as National Parks (it is another matter that our tourists take the word park literally. For more details check this link here: ) and the apex predator numbers increased. Unfortunately, later on the success of Project Tiger was evaluated by the numbers projected by the officials manning these National Parks. This coincided with a period where the knowledge of unraveling the secrets of wildlife had declined tremendously. I have seen DFOs failing to differentiate between the pugmarks of a leopard and tiger. With lack of real experts, the pugmark counting method had degenerated to a comedy of the absurd. No wonder, the official tiger estimation/census became a game of elementary arithmetic and crude logic

However, despite the officials failing to see the light, protection accorded to the sanctuaries and National Preserves, ensured that nature displayed its amazing ability to recoup and rebuild our wilderness areas and the population of birds and bees, herbivores and carnivores, fishes and otters and other species rebounded. In short, the protection accorded to a landscape in the name of saving the tiger, had saved very many species.

However, India – even after dismemberment of vast areas into separate countries – is geographically huge and harbours several unique ecosystems with flora and fauna species. In some of these landscapes, protected areas have been created to accord specific emphasis to a particular species. However, an unfortunate tendency has creeped in where in these species specific protected areas don’t get the required attention. For eg. In the Karera Sanctuary created for the Great Indian Bustard has got the approval from Govt. for denotification following the local extermination of the Great Indian Bustards. (Read More: )
It might be pertinent to recollect that the Great Indian Bustard would have been given the honour of our National Bird, however Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had shot down the proposal as he felt that Indians with their penchant for misspelling English words would end up with a foul word.

There are many such examples of animals other than the tiger getting step motherly treatment. Infact, recent reports suggest that the leopard, despite the wily survivor it is, can become extinct before the tiger. For further details read The Plight of the Leopards:

One should realise that there is a complex chain of ecological relationships among the various species. We can’t just selectively protect one species and feel that our environment has been taken care of. For eg. Read more about the role played by the smallest of the birds ( ). The common man may not be aware of this fact; however, our researchers and conservationists must be aware of it. Is it showing in their actions?

Alien Species Reintroduction – African Cheetah

With the Environment Ministry under a dynamic Minister Shri Jairam Ramesh, the ministry has been proactive and there have been many decisions in support of conservation and unfortunately a few misplaced decisions as well. One of the decisions that falls in the later category is that of the Cheetah Relocation Project.

A decision has been taken to introduce an alien species – the African Cheetah – in the wilds of India. As a child, I used to read the idea of cloning and/or procuring Asiatic cheetah from Iran. However, that idea has been a non-starter. So an easier route is being taken to introduce the African cheetah in India. One of the justifications is an emotive one, that the word cheetah is derived from Sanskrit. The other argument given is that the cheetah project would ensure protection of our grasslands. For further details on the Cheetah Relocation project please check here:

The question that comes to mind, is if we are unable to protect our existing species and wilderness areas then will gimmicks like introduction of alien species help us wake up from our slumber?

Wild Buffalo

Take the case of a species that is in dire straits – the Indian Wild Buffalo. The central Indian stock is noted as having the genetic purity. Today many people don’t even know that the wild buffalo is on the verge of extinction. The only ones that will remain will be the mixed breed with the local buffalos. These questions were asked in the Parliament last year in the Rajya Sabha and answered on 20th of July 2009 and came to our notice courtesy Shri Surjit Bhujabal, IRS and conservationist. It has been reproduced below verbatim.

ANSWERED ON-20.07.2009

(a) whether it is a fact that there are only 5-6 wild buffaloes in the Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve;

(b) the details of wildlife census reports, including those of wild buffaloes, since 2000;

(c) the reasons is why Government failed to conserve wild buffaloes;

(d) whether it is also a fact that all the remaining Wild Buffaloes in the Udanti area have now been kept inside enclosures and if so, under plan of action prepared; and

(e) the details of the action plan along with the necessary reports relating thereto?


(a) As per information received from the Government of Chhattisgarh, presently there are seven wild buffaloes (five adult male, one sub adult male and one adult female) in Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary. However, there are no wild buffaloes in Sitanadi Wildlife Sanctuary.

(b) The estimated population of wildlife in Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary since 2001, including wild buffaloes, is at Annexure.

(c) The reasons for the decline in the population of wild buffalo are mainly attributed to habitat loss, biotic pressure and human-animal conflict.

(d)&(e) No, Sir. As informed by the State Government, only one female wild buffalo with her sub adult calf and one adult male are presently kept inside the enclosure for breeding purpose. The breeding programme of wild buffalo in Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary has been taken up under the wild buffalo recovery plan as recommended by the Wild Buffalo Task Force constituted by the State Government in compliance of the direction given by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of Hon’ble Supreme Court.

It is an accepted scientific fact that the minimum numbers required for a population size to be viable is 500. However, in this case, there is one female and a calf in an enclosure. The other wild buffaloes are known to move around the fringe of the human habitations that have come up in the forests and mate with the domestic buffalo. At the earliest, the genetic purity of the last remaining wild buffalos need to be established and immediate steps need to be taken to restore the last remaining wild buffaloes of the Central Indian stock.

In 2005, I had trekked in the Sunabeda Sanctuary in search of Wild Buffalo and had found their fresh hoof marks though I couldn’t have direct sightings. However, in all those areas, where the forester had never set his foot, there were abandoned pens constructed by nomadic tribes for their cattle pens. So even in the deep forests there are chances of breeding between the Wild Buffalo and the domestic one.

A wild buffalo is one of the mega fauna. It is not a small critter that can go unnoticed or tax the imagination of the common man or the scientists. However, despite that a part of the scientific community is excited at the prospect of introducing an alien species, where as a large herbivore is going to be extinct. Is this not a matter of concern? When will our conservation focus come back on track and focus on the real issues?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Baiting Wildlife:

The Leopards of Bera, a thought provoking report by Dipankar Mazumdar regarding baiting leopards with goats for viewing and photographing them up-close.

In this report “The Leopards of Bera”, Dipankar has presented a balanced view and seeks your inputs on the way forward. You can check the report here:

Feral Dogs Menace:
We often talk about poaching and habitat loss impacting the population of our wildlife. However, the impact of the feral dogs in villages, cities and countryside are not noticed. Most of the times the Vultures, lose out to these dogs who drive away the vultures and grab the carcasses.

An added dimension to the problem is the pack hunting behaviour displayed by the feral dogs. They chase the cheetals, gazelles etc and hunt them down. This behaviour has been documented from all corners of India such as Keoladeo Ghana in Bharatpur, Bandhavgarh, Point Calimere etc. The problem that gave rise to the “fattening” of the street dogs is due to our improper waste disposal system, courtesy the inefficient and non-existent (at times) Municipal Corporations. And also, due to the misplaced love shown towards the feral dogs by our animal lovers. One of the incidents concerning the feral dogs can be read here:

UP to get exclusive force to protect Wildlife:
Hopefully this will turn out to be good news. Read more on this here:

Pesticide Kills elephants:

When can we see synthetic pesticides completely replaced by organic ones? It can be done on a war footing at least around our wilderness areas. Else, such deaths of our precious wildlife will continue. To read more about the death of elephants by pesticides, please check the link here:

India Constitutes Taskforce for Dugongs:

Hopefully, a piece of good news for dugongs or sea cows. I strongly believe that shelving of the Sethusamudram project will do much more for dugongs than any other effort. For further details read more here:

Global forest cover
An interesting forest cover mapping done by NASA is shared by AS Chandrashekaran. For further details read here:

Wildlife Photography:

Images shared by our members between 10th Sept – 9th October, 2010 that depict interesting animal behaviour or are just plain beautiful..

Joga Falls by Dr Hari Venkatesh K R

An evening in Goa by Saurabh Bhatia

Glory of Colours by Dr. Kalpamoi Kakati

Small spider with Catch by Satishchandra Ranadive

Multicolored Moth by Vikram Gupchup

Tiger Beetles-pair by Jitendra Katre

Tahr Mom and Kid by Bibhav Behera:

Lion tailed Macaque by Nikhilesh Mahakur

Spotted Dear by Praveen Siddannavar

Crested Bunting by Amit Kalele

I 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

Sabyasachi Patra
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