IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 6 Issue XI

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 6 Issue XI

Newsletter-Nov-2014 (3.6 MB, 496 downloads)

Protecting India’s Wilds: When will it get our attention?

We often get aghast when there is a news of a large seizure of tiger or leopard skins, claws and bones. Like a storm in a tea cup this lasts perhaps a few minutes before we jump onto another piece of breaking news. The authorities do make the right noises if and when asked during such moments and then status quo prevails. The actions of a few well meaning NGOs who not only provide support to the forest department in terms of intelligence but also help them in prosecution by providing lawyers make us believe that all is well.

These days drones or remote controlled copters equipped with cameras are capable of beaming images and videos live while they are flying. These have been used to fly over forests and scan the area for poachers and there has been an increasing call to enhance use of such technology by our forest departments. It is human to get bowled over by such technology and believe that these technologies to be the panacea. We do forget that first we must stop the leaking bucket before proposing to add scent to it.

According to IUCN Redlist, India has 974 species that are deemed threatened. Only six more countries have more number of threatened species than India has. According to WPSI (Wildlife Protection Society of India) statistics of mega fauna poached & seized, in 2013 110 leopards, 42 tigers, 41 rhinos and 38 elephants were killed. Considering that for every one case that comes to light, there are perhaps 10 cases that evade detection. These figures can cause local extinction of a species from number of places for example all the tigers were once poached from Sariska and Panna. So if we are serious in preserving our wildlife, then it is also important to stop them being decimated by the poachers.

Tiger killed by poachers

Tiger hacked into pieces by poachers

Too often we forget that the basic role of the forest department is protection of the wilderness areas and wildlife and maintaining the wilderness areas in an ecologically sound manner. Tourism and woodcutting to show revenues earned is not the real role of the forest department.

Barn Owl hunted

Barn Owl hunted

To show that the forest department is doing a good job, these days I find some of them doing a few videos of patrolling the highways passing through the forests, asking vehicles not to stop etc. These easy jobs help earn some of them brownie points. Unfortunately, we don’t see many examples of foot patrol by the staff. There was a time when the forest department staff used to scour the forests moving from one beat house to another searching for clues of poachers, removing snares, stopping woodcutters from felling trees etc. These patrolling used to instill fear in the minds of the poachers that they can get caught.

Today with the increased amount of roads within our forests, relatively better availability of vehicles, the patrolling by staff is all but limited to a few areas and at the best few times a year. Old age of the staff also plays a big role in this. When the experienced staff retire, the newbies who take their place are not well versed in jungle craft and hence harbor deep fears about wild animals. So patrolling on foot becomes a frightening experience for them.

In one of the tiger reserves, when I prepared to spend the whole night alone in a watch tower on a cold January night, the forester remarked that in his 25 years of service, he has never spent a night alone in the forest and was really scared of wild animals. This forest didn’t have the problem of left-wing extremists. So this speaks volumes about the ability of our forest personnel in guarding our precious bio-diversity.

It is not simply the problem of our front-line staff, as the PA managers don’t place enough emphasis on foot patrolling by their staff. And when their people do patrolling, it is often limited to the areas that can be covered by vehicles. To effectively patrol an area, one needs to move in through the narrow game trails and trek inside the forest to find signs of intrusion, snares, poaching, tree felling or presence of animal carcass etc.

Staff Shortage:

The Government through the reviews of various wildlife laws is walking down the path which it thinks is good politically. However, wildlife protection is not its focus yet. Till date we have only heard about conservation vis-ŕ-vis development. It is true that in one stroke large swathes of wilderness areas are opened up for mining, roads, dams and other projects which fragments the habitats and increases the challenge for many species to survive. However, why is there no talk about protection of our wilderness areas from poaching, tree felling and land grabbing? Why no talk about filling the vacant staff positions in the various protected areas (PAs)?

It would be important for conservationists and media to highlight the vacancies in the various areas and continually raise the voice questioning the MoEF. We can easily maintain a list of vacancies though collecting data would be a bit difficult. RTI can be used to ask for such data. However, if MoEF doesn’t want then they can simply refuse it by saying data not available. So frequently questions need to be raised in the parliament by MPs (either Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha) who are interested in saving our wildlife and environment. This is not a one off job but a periodical job and data obtained through such means can be compared to arrive at the effectiveness of the MoEF in saving our wilderness areas. The traditional media which often resorts to sensationalistic stories can easily highlight the lack of staff in various forest departments across the country provided they get these information. So it would be important for conservationists and NGOs to feed them with such data.

In this age despite Public-Private partnership being the buzz word and is seen as solution for many of our issues, filling staff vacancies is strictly in the domain of the Government. Corporates won’t be able to hire people on their own rolls and second them to the forest department as the prevailing mantra is to reduce head-count and create a lean organization. It is also a fact that in many forest departments there have been cases of diversion of staff from patrolling to do errands for the officers. So corporates will not be able to help much in this area.

The Forest department can have some help from full time volunteers in various grades for fixed durations. There can be many young men and women as well as seniors who would be ready to work for free/on a honorarium for a few months with the forest department to fulfill their personal commitments towards environment and wildlife. This can help the forest department as these people would come with fresh ideas, which can help our environment and wildlife.

Will the Government wake up to the grim reality of staff shortage faced by our forest departments and take necessary steps?


IndiaWilds App for Android Mobile

In India most of the internet penetration is happening through mobile phones. And the existing users who have access to desktops and laptops are becoming much more mobile then they used to be a few years ago. So to raise awareness and reach out to more people we need to adapt ourselves and make IndiaWilds easily accessed through a mobile phone using android OS.

Today, I am pleased to announce that we have created a mobile phone app so that people can access IndiaWilds anytime, anywhere without being tied to a computer. No need to type. One can access at the click of a button.

We have developed this app through Business Compass LLC a company based in Randolph, New Jersey, United States so that we create a good app.

Awareness is the first step before a person can become a champion of wildlife. I hope this will help us in reaching out to more people to raise awareness and make a real impact on the conservation landscape. If you have an android device then please download the app from this link:


Book Review

The End of The Trail: The Cheetah in India by Divyabhanusinh

The End of A Trail - The Cheetah in India


Conservation News:

Fluorosis defangs lions of Gir:

A study titled “Ecology of Lions in Greater Gir Landscape” by Dr Jalpan Rupara & Dr Purvesh Kacha found that lions are losing their teeth due to fluorosis. This study conducted across an area of 250 sq. km examined lions as well as people living in Lathi Liliya in Amreli district of Gujarat. They deduced that the high fluoride content in the ground water is resulting in fluorosis which results in tooth decay as well as deterioration of bones and joints.

_MG_6014A total of eight lions were studied and three of them were afflicted with tooth decay. One of the lions had only two teeth remaining of its 26 teeth. The other two lions had lost three and four teeth respectively.  finds lions losing their teeth.

The reason cited by the authors was that lions in this region drink from ponds and rivulets, which are known to turn salty during summers and winters due to high contaminants.

Following this report, The Gujarat Forest Department has ordered a study on fluorosis in the area. According to CN Pandey, Chief Wildlife Warden, Gujarat, the Forest Department has asked Anand Veterinary Institute to study on fluorosis amongst the lions in Lathi Liliya area.

The lions of Gir had undergone a genetic bottleneck and have very low genetic diversity. Hence their susceptibility to diseases is higher. While the proposal to lion relocation to give them a second home hangs in balance, a few of them have moved out of Gir to establish new homes. Some of them persish by drowning in open wells, some others die due to electrocution. With a total estimate population of about 441, the Asiatic lion areas faces a long and hard struggle for existence.

PM’s Climate Change Council reconstituted:

Government Establishes Centre of Zoo Sciences


Equipment Discussions

Canon announces EF 100-400 f3.5-5.6 L IS II USM lens


Sounds of Naure

Kumbara Night Frog by Abhishek Jamalabad


Natural History

COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M. Krishnan: THE RATEL By Saktipada Panigrahi


Image of the Month

The Honour for the Image of the Month October 2014 goes to Pralay Lahiri’s image of an Yellow-throated Marten


Wildlife Photography

Bharal Ladakh by Sucheth Lingachar

Montagu’s Harrier male by Shyamala Kumar

Oriental White eye by Jitendra Katre

Staying Firm by Bibhav Behera

The Blue Hour by Abhishek Jamalabad

Variable Bush Frog Calling by Abhishek Jamalabad

Funnel web spider by Pajwal Ullal


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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Newsletter-Nov-2014 (3.6 MB, 496 downloads)
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