IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 5 Issue IX

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 5 Issue IX

Newsletter- September 2013 (3.6 MB, 1772 downloads)

Big Hairy Audacious Goal to Save the Tiger

The Project Tiger was started when across India hunters were indiscriminately shooting down tigers. This hunting pressure was tremendously increased by the hunting tourism lobby who were inviting trophy hunters from abroad. In this backdrop, Kailash Sankhala and Billy Arjan Singh had convinced Smt. Indira Gandhi to ban tiger hunting. Despite the vociferous arguments by the hunting lobby that they had already booked clients in advance and banning tiger hunting will deprive India of precious foreign exchange, Mrs. Indira Gandhi stood firm. Her decision was aided by the promise of 1 million dollars by WWF. Project Tiger was born with Kailash Sankhala becoming the founder director.

Tiger in Bandipur National Park

Tiger in Bandipur National Park

The stated objective of the Project Tiger was to ensure the maintenance of a viable population of the tiger in India and to preserve, for all times, such areas as part of our national heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of future generations. The Project Tiger was started with nine reserves representing various ecosystems in India Manas, Palmau, Similipal, Corbett, Kanha, Ranthambhore, Melghat, Bandipur and Sundarbans. These nine Tiger Reserves covered a total of 16,339 square kilometers.

Initially the project tiger was hailed as a success as due to protection accorded to the reserves, there was a discernible difference in the sightings of wildlife in those 9 Tiger Reserves. In a number of reserves the sightings of Tiger became a reality, albeit over a bait. Then Project Tiger slowly changed gears and the initial success and euphoria tapered off. Why did it happen?

Project Tiger: The Numbers Game:

Five years after the Project Tiger was launched in 1973, Periyar and Sariksa were added as Tiger Reserves in 1978. Four years later in 1982, Buxa, Indravati, NagarjunaSagar-Srisailam and Namdapha were added to the list of Tiger Reserves under the Project Tiger.
So by 1982, the number of tiger reserves were 15 and area was 24712 square kilometres as opposed to the original number of 9 Tiger Reserves with 16,339 square kilometres total area.

When the number of tiger reserves started increasing with more and more protected areas being brought under the ambit of the Project Tiger, some measured the increase in number of Tiger Reserves as progress or success of the Project Tiger. So by the stroke of a pen, reclassifying the existing protected areas as Tiger Reserves also increased the total area under tiger reserve classification. This was considered as a barometer of success.

The tiger population in initial 9 Tiger Reserves were estimated to be 268 and the total number of tigers in the Tiger Reserves under Project Tiger kept on increasing with more reserves added to the list as well as the individual officers number juggling ability.
In those days the estimates of tiger numbers were primarily based on pugmark method. Though there were exponents of this technique like Saroj Raj Chaudhury, the tiger census at various reserves were just estimations impacted by the degree of skill the individual officer possessed. So even the estimation of 268 tigers in the nine tiger reserves when Project Tiger was initiated cannot be considered as accurate. In this back drop, the increase in number of tigers projected by the tiger reserve authorities, though considered as another measure of success, was at best arbitrary.

Examining Project Tigers Objectives:

Modern management theories based on the analysis of successful organisations suggest that the Vision/Goal of an organisation or project is very important to its success. According to a theory by Jim Collins arrived at by analysing hundreds of successful businesses, a good vision statement of an organisation should have a core ideology and an envisioned future (Jim Collins & Jerry Porras, Building your Companys Vision, HBR Sept 1996).

Core ideology:

The core ideology of the organisation is its enduring character, which doesnt change even after the passage of time. Core ideology provides the glue that binds the organisation when it grows in size, diversifies, moves into different geographies etc. Core ideology can be further subdivided into a Core values which is a system of guiding principles, basic tenets or commandments which guides the organisation through thick and thin; and Core purpose which is the organisations fundamental reason for existence.

Envisioned Future:

The organisation should have a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) with a time frame of 10 to 30 years. This BHAG captures the imagination of the employees and excites them to give their best. It energises the organisation. It is also important that there is a vivid description so that the vision is well understood.

In light of the above mentioned theory, the objectives of the Project Tiger to ensure the maintenance of a viable population of the tiger in India and to preserve, for all times, such areas as part of our national heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of future generations fails in several counts.

The core purpose of the Project Tiger is obvious from the objective. However, the term viable population is written from a management perspective and not from that of the stakeholders. So though there is a core purpose, it is not understood by the majority of Tiger Reserve staff, and hence fails to capture their imagination. When the staff are not excited, the result is a foregone conclusion.
One can argue that the objectives of the Project Tiger also contain Core Values in form of preserve, for all times, such areas as part of our national heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of future generations. However Core Values require no external justification. They are enduring tenets of an organisation. Clearly preserving these Tiger Reserves should have been the priority for all times. However, there have been several questions as to the reason for existence of the Tiger Reserves and some parts have been sacrificed for mining, dams, canals, industries, railways etc.

Also, the tiger reserves were supposed to be preserved as National Heritage a tag which means hardly anything to the internal as well as external stakeholders. They were also supposed to be preserved for education and enjoyment of future generations. Unfortunately, that part remained only in letter and not in spirit. The communication with the future generations remained limited to badly maintained interpretation centres where a few posters could be seen.

Absence of a BHAG:

The Objectives of the Project Tiger also failed to create an enormous goal that could energise the Project Tiger officials, staff and stakeholders. For example, on May 25th 1961 when President John F. Kennedy announced before a joint session of Congress that before the end of the decade America will land a man on moon and safely bring him back home. That statement had energised not only NASA but the entire USA. That is the power of a BHAG (Big-Hairy-Audacious-Goal). Unfortunately, our Project Tiger authorities couldnt dream of such an audacious seemingly impossible challenge that could have captured the imagination of the nation and motivated the team to achieve it.

Years have passed. There have been task force to study the failure and like five blind men and an elephant, there have been prescriptions. Sadly even those prescriptions remain unimplemented. Our wilderness areas are increasingly under threat. They have become islands without any connectivity with each other. The health of those tiger reserves are also terrible with most of them runover by invasives, fragmented by roads and railways and canals, polluted by industries and sewerage from human habitations, encroached upon by people, poaching, logging, wood cutting and cattle grazing etc.

A tiger cannot live in isolation. It sits on top of a complex web of inter-relationships between various organisms. When there is failure to save the diversity of the forests, to protect the forests from being clear-felled for timber, or cut down by villagers for firewood, it impacts the prey species. That in turn affects the predators. If the forests officials had focused more on managing the health of the forests and protected the forests from grazing, wood cutting, logging and poaching, and relocating the villagers, used the local tribals for protection then the number of prey as well as tigers would have bounced back.

When due to natural reasons or poaching the tiger numbers fall below sustainable levels in one reserve, there is no way for tigers from other areas to come and repopulate the place as the linkages with other wilderness areas have been lost. Whereas scientists may immediately tom-tom their success in relocating a few tigers in a couple of Tiger Reserves, we havent been able to remove the root cause of tigers not being able to repopulate a wilderness area on their own. We need to reconnect our wilderness areas. Like the Governments North-South-East-West corridors for vehicular traffic, can we dream of creating an uninterrupted forest corridor for our wildlife from North to South and East to West? Is it Big and audacious enough as a goal to be achieved in the next 10-15 years?

Impact of Food wastage on environment:

The food and agricultural organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has come out with a study titled The Food Wastage Footprint Impacts on Natural Resources and has found that every year about one third of the worlds food production is wasted. This amounts to a humungous 1.3 billion tons of food wasted every year.

The impact on the environment is huge.

This excess production of food grains contributes to about 3.3 Gtonnes of CO2 equivalent annually, contributing to the global warming. This amount is third largest behind top emitters USA and China. This is equal to twice the amount of annual green house gas emitted by the road transport sector in USA in 2010.

The 1.3 billion tons of food wasted every year is estimated to grow in an area of 1.4billion hectares which is 28% of the entire worlds area under agricultural production. So if we can manage to save the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted then the 1.4 billion hectares of land used for growing that food could be left uncultivated. This land can be left fallow and large patches can grow wild again. Nature with its huge capacity to bounce back will take over these fallow lands once again. This will be a big help to birds and animals that are fighting an increasingly losing battle for survival. These areas can also help in rebuilding the lost corridors between our various wilderness areas.

Leaving nearly one third the amount of arable land uncultivated will also result in less usage of toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, which are increasingly poisoning our water sources and affecting the health of people as well as wildlife.

Agriculture also gobbles up huge amount of resources. Today there is an increasing tussle between farmers and industrialists in major areas for water. In places like Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur, farmers stop water supply to the park. The 1.3 billion tons of wasted food requires 250 Km3 of surface and ground water equal to the annual discharge of river Volga in Russia. Stopping these enormous food waste will help in preserving the ground water from over exploitation. We will not require massive dams and canals to divert water. Whenever dams are knocked off, the river runs at its normal course and the large swathes of land submerged under the backwaters of the dam will be now available once again and get converted to forests, further increasing the carbon sequestration capacity. India today is increasingly facing water wars, so this would come as a big boon to our country and economy.

The study has also found that in developing countries most of the losses are in the early stages of production due to the harvest techniques and post harvest transportation and storage facilities not being robust.

However in India, according to data released by FCI (Food Corporation of India) through an RTI petition, even the so-called developed states like Gujarat are among the top three food wasting states.

2401.61 MT of wheat has been damaged in the year 2011-2012 as opposed to damage of 1997 million tonnes (MT) in 2010-2011. This year the loss upto February 2013 is already 932.46 MT out of which the top three states responsible are Bihar at 306.5 MT, second is Uttarakhand at 221 MT followed by Gujarat at 195 MT. In 2009-1010 Gujarat had topped the list with maximum 785 MT of damaged wheat.

It is unfortunate that Gujarat prides itself as the most preferred investment destination; however, it hasnt given attention to food rotting in the godowns in its state.

In the developed countries where the harvest, transportation and storage infrastructure is efficient, the losses are mostly at the end of the supply chain ie at the consumer end. The study attributes that to the consumers often not buying items due to concerns about best-before-buy dates or quality standards being too restrictive according to size or aesthetics.

Wastage of food at the consumer end is also about consumer psyche and is impacted by the general shortage or abundance faced by the contemporary society of the country. A couple of years back during a conversation,theAmbassador of Finland to India had said that the generation of finnish people who have seen the war with Russia understood the pain of food shortage and were loathe to waste even a slice of bread. In sharp contrast to the habits of that generation of finnish people, the present generation is more profligate and likely to waste food. Similar examples were seen in families who were uprooted from their homes in Bangladesh and Pakistan, however the younger generation in those families throw away food without any qualms if they dont feel like eating. In India, elders in many families even today admonish the youngsters if food is wasted. However, in a surprising experience in an SEZ (Special Economic Zone) where the Kitchen cooks one lakh meals a day, I have seen the employees waste lot of food. Surprisingly, 90% of these employees are from economically weaker sections of society who can only afford one meal a day. So saving food is not a universal value, ie. when the food is provided by a company or paid for by someone else, even people from deprived classes waste food. The average food waste in that SEZ varied between 100 gms at the least to 250 gms per person per meal per day. Awareness campaigns like placing boards mentioning the food wasted the previous day helped a bit in reducing the wastage.

A five member family wasting 100 gms per meal can save 1kg of food every day, if they become conscious and stop wasting. That equates to 30kgs of food every month. Is that not a cause for concern? Especially in an economy where the food inflation is running more than 18% can we not focus on this aspect?

If we dont stop wasting, then we need to raise food production by 60% to meet the food needs of people by 2050. I hope we can raise sufficient awareness so that we can stop food wastage, eradicate hunger as we will have enough for everybody to eat; save our forests from conversion to agricultural fields, reduce emission of green house gasses, avoid water problems, increase carbon sequestration, and live a green and healthy life.

The complete report can be found here:

Species in Focus

Wild India: Jungle Cat

For more details please click the link below –


Other Conservation News

Poachers use Furadan to kill Tigers

A study by a three member team of ParamJit Singh, CCF Kumaon, Dr Utkarsh Shukla, Lucknow zoo deputy director and Dr Abhishek Singh has revealed that Furadan, a commonly available pesticide is used in poisoning of tigers and leopards in Uttarakhand.
Furadan insecticide was the cause of death of number of lions in Africa and hence FMC Corporate decided to withdraw this insecticide (Furadan 5G) from distributors and retailers in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. FMC had even mentioned that it had no plans to reintroduce this produce in the future in these countries. The details can be found here:

Unfortunately, Furadan is being sold in India by Rallis India, a Tata Group enterprise, under license from FMC Corporation. In the past we had documented use of Furadan to kill migratory birds in Chilika lake in Odisha, India. The pesticidefuradan can be clearly seen in the leaves near the dead birds.

Effect of Furdan

Effect of Furdan

With birds the death is instantaneous and the larger cats like tigers and leopards succumb within an hour or two. With these new facts coming to light will Rallis India stop marketing this in India the way FMC Corporation stopped selling it in East Africa?
When a chemical insecticide is withdrawn from African countries and still being sold in India, this is clearly a matter of discrimination. Will the Government of India sit up and take notice and ban Furadan from India?

Concerned members may write to:

Mr. V. Shankar,
Managing Director & CEO,
Rallis India Ltd., 156/157, 15th Floor,
Nariman Bhavan, 227, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021,
Fax: 022-66652847

Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan
Honble Minister of State (Independent Charge)
Ministry of Environment and Forests
Paryavaran Bhawan,CGO Complex,
Lodhi Road,New Delhi 110003 Tel: +91-11-24361727 Fax: +91-11-24362222

Hacking into Radio Collar of Tiger in Panna

Tiger Genome sequencing completed

Natural History

Country Notebook Red Wattled Lapwing

The Agile Architect by Shamala Kumar

Sounds of Nature

Call of Indian Scops Owl

Equipment Discussions

Sandisk launches Extreme Pro CFast 2.0 Memory Cards

Image of the Month

The honour for the Image of the Month for August 2013
goes to the image titled Gaur chasing Tiger by Praveen Siddannavar

Wildlife Photography

Fishing Vibes by Abhishek Jamalabad

Elephant Mud bath by Rajan Kanagasabai

Smooth Coated Otter by Roopak Gangadharan

Tuskers in Mock Fight by Mrudul Godbole

Leaping black bucks by Hymakar Valluru

Oriental White Eye from Ooty by Kaleeswara Srikanth

Skimmers record image by Sabyasachi Patra

Corbett Landscape by Gajanan Bapat

Manchinbele by Bibhav Behera

Sabyasachi Patra
Equipment reviews:
IndiaWilds Channel:

Please post your views and feedback in the comments below.

Newsletter- September 2013 (3.6 MB, 1772 downloads)
Follow me:
Latest posts by Sabyasachi Patra (see all)