Sabyasachi Patra

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 5 Issue I

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 5 Issue I

Firstly I would like to wish all members and readers a ‘Very Happy New Year 2013’. May this year we reverse the tide and save our fast vanishing wildlife and wilderness areas of this beautiful country.

Children of Lesser Gods!

What is the fate of our wildlife living outside the ambit of our protected area network?

Leopards living outside the protected areas

Leopards living outside the protected areas

This question is increasingly becoming relevant as the billion plus human population of our country shows no sign of abating and it is placing a huge demand on our mother earth.

Since we have been caught up with the challenge of protecting the last remaining wilderness left in our few National Parks, sanctuaries and other protected areas, the wildlife living outside the protected area network is not a top priority for us.

To make matters worse, the wildlife living outside our protected areas have hardly been studied and their existence goes unacknowledged except in the case when our ever expanding needs bring us in conflict with them. They are then swiftly branded as problem animals, tranquilised and if they survive the tranquilisation process then they are most often condemned to a life behind bars. In a few cases these tranquilised animals are released in some other forest locations. Of late several scientists and conservationists have given up hope and have advocated killing them. The terms culling and lethal control finds acceptability with some members of the scientific community as killing makes them feel guilty. Rarely the term murder is applied as we have reserved that for describing the killing forhomo sapiens. The guidelines on human-leopard conflict issued by MoEF even states that if for some reason a leopard is caged for a month, then the leopard should never be released in the wild. A human being can be released after 14 years of imprisonment. And a juvenile, however heinous his crime may be, will be released after three years on the pretext of being allowed to reform. However, a different yardstick for animals.

The wildlife living outside our protected area networkslike leopards, jackals, foxes, porcupines, wild boars,etchave not been studied and hence their populations estimations have either never been done or if done for some species, then it is highly inaccurate. Some of the studies done by researchers, which incidentally found details of wildlife outside protected areas, are not published in popular literature. Hence the decision makers, opinion makers and the public at large are not aware about the existence of the wildlife outside protected areas in places which are technically classified as revenue lands and agricultural lands.

People who have been living in these places are well aware of the wildlife. However, the continual migration of people from villages to our cities, change inland use, shift in cropping pattern, and change in ownership of these lands are having a big impact on the wildlife in these areas.

A lot of these lands which were classified as agricultural land and was lying uncultivated for ages have been now either sold off, or cultivated due to change in ownership or has seen houses being built up due to population increase resulting in less space for wildlife.

The ease of availability of power, theft of power as well as non-payment and/or waiver of dues is resulting in people using motors to pump water out of wells and irrigate their lands at will. Earlier there used to be limitation in terms of amount of water drawn as people used to use a pair of bullocks to draw water. Now, one can hear the constant generator noise as people in arid areas choose to cultivate crops like wheat which requires lot of water. So the areas which had less human intrusion and hence was good wildlife habitat has now become cultivated and reduces the space available for wildlife. The wildlife has come to adapt to these situations, as leopards, jackals, jungle cats, wild boars have learnt to live in tall crops like Sugarcane, Bajra which provide them adequate hiding space.

Change in land-use pattern & Fears

The villagers in number of cases are aware of the wildlife and have learnt to live with them. However, in places, where there is a change ofland useand there is an influx of people from outside, conflict starts. Most of the people who either want to acquire a farm house as a status symbol or who have moved into the area from cities immediately panic when then find wildlife at close quarters. After all, our education system is such that wildlife is often painted as villain and people harbour deep rooted fears about wildlife. This is also observed in the thoughts and articles of a lot of researchers when wildlife is described as dangerous. The same fear is also there in forest department officials. Recently, when I spent a night alone in a watch tower, I was told that none of the forest department guards even after serving more than twenty five years of service, have never spent a night alone in the forest. It is imperative that the wildlife is not only shown in good light but also the demonisation of wildlife has to stop. Else, even the protectors of wildlife will continue to fear and will not be able to protect wildlife. It is also important that the unprecedented pace of change ofland usefrom agricultural land to create houses have to stop.

In cases where carnivores are living in the revenue lands, they at times predate on livestock. Rather than the tiger, the leopard is often the main predator in these places as it has learnt to live on a frugal diet of rodents, hare, and the occasional livestock. The forest department normally doesnt give compensation. In cases where the forest department gives compensation, they insist on seeing the carcass, as people can easily make false claims. So people often make efforts to retrieve the carcass and ward off the predator. This makes the predator to make an effort to hunt again and at times irritated with these intrusions, certain leopards are known to charge at people. The situation is then blown out of proportion and the leopard is either trapped or killed bringing a sad end to the situation.

In most of the cases, the forest department is loath to declare an area as protected area. Though there have been some efforts to create community reserves in a few states, these efforts are often little and too late. In such situations, it would be ideal if the Government allows private conservancies with the equity participation of local people. This would help the local villagers to keep their lands as it is and help in protecting the wildlife. The tourism lobby, which is fixated on the few tiger reserves can step forward and put in efforts to create a true ecotourism practice, rather than their present day laughable attempts.

A lot of effort and vision has to be shown by the Government to protect the wildlife fighting against the relentless march of the ills associated with the population explosion and greed. Virtually every other day there is a news of human-leopard conflict in some part of the country. While filming these magnificent animals, I swing between despair and hope. In the end, I choose to live with hope. If we too ignore the plight of our wildlife battling to survive outside our protected areas, then truly they can be called as Children of Lesser Gods. Do we have the will power and sensitivity to effect a change?


Exotic Wildlife as Pets:

I saw a mongoose with ghungroo in its legs and around the neck. I was aghast and informed the owner that this is against the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Fortunately, mongoose can be easily released and it can turn wild and survive even in sparse vegetation. On the other hand releasing birds like parakeets, tortoise etc should be done with care.

Under the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) our native species cannot be kept as pets. Unfortunately India doesnt have a law banning exotic wildlife. So people freely bring exotic birds and animals and sell it as pets and these are also used for meat. We often blame China for decimation of our tiger population as the demand for tiger body bones, meat and other body parts ensures killing of our wild tigers as well as attacks on even tigers in the zoos. However, we dont realise that due to the lack of any legislation against trade in exotic wildlife, we are giving a boost to the decimation of wildlife of other countries.

In India we dont have a track of how many of these exotic pets are in our country, neither do we track the birth and their deaths. So apart from these pets being consumed as meat, we also dont know when such exotic species get accidentally or intentionally released into the wild.

Some of the species when released in the wild can create havoc, as they can outcompete our native species. There are other species which can mate with our wild species and create hybrids and pollute the purity of the species.

Exotic species in the wild

Exotic species in the wild


So it is important that the Government should ban private ownership of exotic species, so that the pet trade on exotic species stops. The existing exotic species should not be allowed to breed. A separate registry for these exotic species should be maintained with licensing requirements and an end date for a complete stop of these exotic species as pets be specified. If someone is willing to donate these exotic species to the zoos, then those should be accepted.

It is time for updating our Wildlife Protection Act 1972 to completely ban the private ownership of exotic species in India.


Canon Cinema EOS C300

Canon C300 Review

Canon C300 Review

I have extensively used the Canon Cinema EOS C300 camera for filming wildlife. The hands on review can be found here:


Save the Jarawas: Stop the ATR:

The Hon’ble Supreme Court has banned movement of tourists through the Andaman Trunk Road (ATR). The Andaman Trunk Road cuts through the Jarawa Reserve. Daily scores of vehicles pass through the Jarawa Reserve on the pretext of visiting the limestone caves and essentially these visits are for having a glimpse of the Jarawa tribes. The once hostile Jarawas, a primitive tribe, who had lived in isolation for thousands of years and had willingly shunned contact with the outside world have been gradually mellowed down by placing fruits and red cloth on the ATR route. Gradually members of these tribes got accustomed to accepting these “baits” and started frequenting the ATR in the hope of getting some free fruits, cloth and toys. A once fiercely independent and proud people have been reduced to waiting for alms. Their self-sufficient lifestyle and self-pride has been decimated by these official “contact” programs.

A few people of the tribe have even learnt a smattering of hindi and have taken to wearing jeans and other clothes and taken to alcohol. Their women are encouraged to dance to satisfy the hedonistic tendencies of a few individuals. A video clicked during one such event triggered world wide condemnation. However, we have no idea when the investigation on this particular issue will be completed. In the meanwhile, there are various groups who want the integration of these Jarawas into the mainstream. A few intelligent people even advocate asking the Jarawas whether they want to be integrated into the mainstream or not and based on their pressure the NAC is reported to have asked the Tribal Affairs ministry to ask the Jarawas whether they want to get integrated into the mainstream. Do the Jarawas really understand the impact of integration into the mainstream? Do they know that integration into the mainstream means addition of a few hundred coolies, and free availability of a few naked women to dance to the tunes of popular hindi songs in some one’s house? Will the proponents of integration come forward and marry their sons and daughters to tribals? In a society which still places a premium on the colour of skin, caste and creed is such integration possible? Whom are we fooling?

A few advocates of such integration want to go and ask the Jarawas themselves, so that they can get some stories for their blogs, magazines, research papers etc. Any one who is well versed on market research will understand the significance of questionnaire design as well as the manner in which the survey is conducted. If foreigners come and conduct surveys, there is a tendency of people to even say yes when they have no intention of buying a product. Similarly, outsiders administrating a survey is simply not going to help, as there will always be a perception associated with us as well as expectation which will make any such survey completely biased and baseless.

And how are we going to administer this survey? Not every body understand Hindi. There are a few who have done research in the Jarawa language. We all know that slight change in question is going to give us diametrically opposite answers. It is difficult to explain the Jarawas on the impact of integration into the mainstream. It is a one way traffic and there is no going back. If a race has remained without contact with outsiders for more than 50,000 years, let them live in peace. The only thing that we can do is stop poaching and wood cutting in the Jarawa Reserve, so that the Jarawas numbering about 400 can have sufficient food for themselves and will not require any outside help.

Though the fate of the investigation is not known, banning of tourism is going to reduce the number of vehicles passing through the Jarawa Reserve. The Hon’ble Supreme Court order of 2002 to close down the Andaman Trunk Road has not bee implemented even after more than a decade of the order. This would be perhaps the first instance of someone ignoring the Supreme Court order with impunity and no action against this contempt of court has been taken. Ironically, the Supreme Court bench instead of questioning why the 2002 order has not been implemented and insisting on its implementation has now got into the task of examining and giving piece meal orders. Is the Hon’ble Supreme Court helpless in view of this blatant refusal to implement its order? That is what is the common man asking. Any one versed with criminal psychology will understand that they use such examples to strengthen their own perception of rich and mighty violating the law with impunity and only the meek being penalised and they justify their crimes on this perceived inequality.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in its interim order has allowed passage of Government vehicles as well as vehicles of people residing in the settlements. When no action is taken for more than a decade, it is imperative that the population is going to increase and later on no action is taken on the pretext of causing inconvenience to a large population. So this gives rise to a practice that a majority decides what is right. So the absolute truth finds no takers. We are far removed from “Satyameva jayate“. Truth doesn’t prevail, majority prevails. Alas, that would be a travesty of justice. We can’t build a modern India by deviating from the principles of natural justice. It is time the Hon’ble Supreme Court ensures immediately forces the Andaman Administration as well as the Union Government to close the ATR and make alternate arrangements for people depending on the ATR. Some discussions and news on this issue can be found here:


Other Conservation News

No permissions for Dolphinariums:

No go areas around sanctuaries by Feb 15th:

Snow Leopard in Kugti Wildlife Sanctuary:

Mass death of Chitals in Kanha:

Maharashtra Govt hesitates to notify sanctuary for Wild Buffalo:

Marine Life: Whale Killed by fishermen

Man-leopard conflict in Siliguri:


Image of the Month:

The Image of the Month for December 2012 honour goes to Abhishek Jamalabad:


Natural History:

Rare case of Female Asiatic Elephant in Musth:

Draco Feeding on Weaver ant:

Sounds of Nature:

Drongo mimicking Serpent eagle call by Roopak Gangadharan:

Asian Palm Civet call by Roopak Gangadharan:


Equipment Discussions:

Canon introduces 14mm T3.1 and 135mm T2.2 Cinema lenses


Conservation Imagery:

Little egret with Motorcycle

Wildlife Photography:

Indian Fox in Kutch by Mrudul

Indian Fox from Rajasthan by Kaustuv Chatterjee

Leopard from Sattal by Gajanan Bapat

Chen Keree (Stiped-neck mongoose) by Roopak Gangadharan

Leopard from Nagarhole by Praveen Siddannavar

Red Munia by Jitendra Katre

Life on a Lamina by Abhishek Jamalabad

Sea Lily by Abhishek Jamalabad

Honey Bees by Rajeev Khanna


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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