IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 4 Issue XII

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 4 Issue XII


Blood Betting

While driving from one wilderness area to another, I do stop to understand the social and cultural influences of people living in the buffer areas of our forests. In India Today, where each one of us has an opinion, for the better or worse, it is important to understand the influences first hand to get a perspective on what works for conservation and what doesnt.

The dominant belief is that people living in the buffer area are poor and have to depend upon the forests for living. Is it so?

I see villages expanding within our National Parks. From hamlets, they have been converted into pucka houses, wide roads, double story schools, hospitals and what not All within a National Park. Is that the future of our wilderness areas?

Many NGOs who project the villagers as economically weak and propagating the myth of peaceful coexistence of people with wildlife, when asked about this display of wealth in form of SUVs by the villagers attribute it to hard work. A regular visitor to the forests on a cursory look can tell that the once dense forests are increasingly resembling large untended estates with sparse vegetation. The tall old growth trees are all but decimated at the hands of woodcutters. One person from the Santhal tribe lamented that they used to worship the Sal tree, but now his friends are cutting them off to cater to the demand of furniture. And when the forest department with their demotivated staff make a raid, they are attacked by the NGOs. The arm chair intelligentsia even attribute the so called forest department torture as fuelling maoist problems.

With the differences between the Forest Rights Act and the Wildlife Protection Act, the fissures between the two ministries are there for all to see. With such attractive options of making money within the forests, and many activists ever ready to take up their cause, how so ever dubious it might be, no wonder the 10 lakh per family offer to relocate from the core areas find very few takers.

The tourism boom into our forests has also brought in another problem. Kind hearted tourists often give chocolates and biscuits etc to kids of the people living in those villages. I was astonished when I found small kids aggressively demanding chocolates and when not given ready to scold as well as throw a stone or two. Alas, a favour these days is taken as birth right.

Poaching of animals is also taken as birth right as people claim it to be intricately linked to their culture. Cruelty towards animals is an unheard concept. Many villagers actively participate in Cock Fights. In Oriya it is known as Kukuda ladhei (Kukuda is the Oriya word for Chicken). These cocks have been trained to fight and are brought up on a special diet of rice, wheat, maize etc. A small spoon of rum is also given to them to increase their aggression.


A sharp curved steel blade is tied to one of their legs and they attack each other while the villagers revel in the blood sport fervently betting on the sidelines. This practice hardly gets the attention of the police. Presenting a short film titled Blood Betting. Shot with a Canon Cinema EOS C300 camera, a low resolution, ungraded version is shared here.

According to George Schaller, Conservation, in the final analysis, is culture, economics and politics. (For more details check IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 2 Issue VI ) To preserve our wilderness and wildlife in the long run, we need to look at all these three aspects. Hence, apart from ethical issues, raising voice against these cruel games will also help in changing the cultural mores and help in conservation. To raise your voice against this you can email to the Chief Secretary of Odisha at


Is India a Poor Country?

In this consumerist society, people often listen to the rich and wealthy and believe them. Recently owner of a famous worldwide fashion chain, Roberto Cavalli came to India to open his store and said “I came to India first time, 40 years ago for a personal visit. It was more wild, more poor but it is beautiful to see the progress of this country. India is important all around the world. It is the future of many things.

Calling an ancient civilization as poor shows the lack of understanding in part of this fashion shop owner. Unfortunately, there is not a murmur of protest when we hear that India was earlier poor and wild. Our wilderness areas and biodiversity are our strengths and not weaknesses, as these wealthy but ignorant people remark. Is Italy ashamed of Rome and its Roman heritage?

Who will decide the definition of progress? The energy guzzling unsustainable materialist life as practiced in the US, which places a heavy demand on the Mother Earth, should not be seen as the only sign of development. When the so-called developed economies of Europe are on the verge of defaulting and surviving on write offs from other countries, we ought to critically look at the model of development that we want to pursue.

In every village the mud and thatch huts are being replaced by concrete structures. In the earlier days while travelling from one part of the country to another we used to see different local construction material used to make the houses. The thick mud walls in certain places were designed to make the house cool. So was the ventilation system allowing air and light. In its place, now there is uniform concretization. Not only does these non-biodegradable construction material harm the earth, they also increase the ambient temperatures. These days there are people are experimenting with thatch structures about six inches above the concrete roof to allow air movement and cool the house during summers. It is imperative that we move into ecologically sustainable housing and not just GREEN Buildings in terms of power consumption.

There are many anthropologists who start with the premise that tribals are poor and should be educated according to our system and given jobs. Why do we want to wean away self-sufficient people and make them dependent on us for jobs? Or do we have less number of consumers that we still want to increase our consumer base to sell our products?

There are increasing instances of people being induced into alcohol and drugs to make them dependent on it. This forces tribals as well as non-tribals alike to pursue unethical work. Clearly, conservation of wildlife and wilderness areas cant happen in isolation when the society is increasingly getting into lawlessness with crime and violence becoming prevalent.

With the tribals lured away by the glamour of the modern way of living, the traditional knowledge is lost. There are cases where the doctors are stunned by the miraculous recovery of patients of deadly diseases through tribal medicine, for which modern allopathy treatment has no cure. It is imperative that we should focus more on documenting the traditional knowledge.

With such knowledge base, can the country be poor? A billionaire whose company has run up debts to the tune of several billion, and is even unable to pay his employees salary is still called as the King of Good Times. And when a person is happy pursuing his traditional lifestyle, living off his own produce or gathering from the forest and only depending upon the outside world for salt; not ready to barter his self-sustaining lifestyle, he is immediately considered poor and subjected to our sympathy. Mystery indeed is the ways of evaluating a mans worth.

It is important for the conservationists to take upon the duty of educating people that living in harmony with mother earth doesnt mean becoming poor.


Other Conservation News:

Forest Department shoots down Tiger

Casinos to bait tourists to Matheran

Alien tree species pose a threat to Eastern Ghats


Sounds of Nature:

Treepie Call


Conservation Imagery:

Nano at Nagzira by Vikram Gupchup


Image of the Month:

Image of the Month: November 2012 by Bibhav Behera


Wildlife Photography:

A rare record: Brown Booby by Abhishek Jamalabad

Tawny Eagle by Jitendra Katre

Hi Fliers by Abhishek Jamalabad

Gaur br Praveen Siddannavar

Leopard on rock by Praveen Siddannavar

Hibiscus like flower by Murugan Anantharaman


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

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Sabyasachi Patra
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