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Thread: WII sets trees on fire to drive out leopard

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    Default WII sets trees on fire to drive out leopard

    Read this news in Indian Express, cant expect anything from common man when people in charge act this way.

    WII sets trees on fire to drive out leopard
    Neha Sinha
    Tags : Wildlife Institute of India, Leopard
    Posted: Sun May 30 2010, 02:40 hrs
    New Delhi:

    The Wildlife Institute of India has found itself in a quan-dary over protection of wildlife in its own backyard.

    The opinion of faculty was divided over what to do about a female leopard who visits the campus to drink water. While one section wanted the animal translocated, another maintained that this went against the institute’s teachings on coexistence with wildlife. Matters came to a head on Saturday when the institute set fire to several trees inside the campus to drive out the leopard. Meanwhile, some students and faculty appealed to the administration to avoid causing any harm to the animal.

    The Indian Express had earlier reported how the faculty at the institute was in the midst of an intense debate on whether the leopard should be touched or not. However, following protests by some faculty members, WII decided to study the leopard. Now, fresh attempts are being made to chase the leopard away, said sources.

    Link - http://www.indianexpress.com/news/wi...eopard/626921/
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

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    Posting this update on the earlier post.

    Can scientists change their spots?

    Can a leopard be a guest at the Wildlife Institute? India’s premier wildlife research centre, on the Shivaliks and bordering a national park, is in the middle of an intense debate. Is sharing space with wildlife a threat or a privilege?

    You turn and look at the stumpy signs bordering the “campus lake” and you can picture a Kipling-esque dream coming true. “Ever-changing swampy point,” smugly offers one of the signs, half-hidden amidst abundant, dotted grasses and skittering wild skinks. “Wild coffee”, “wild jasmine,” say other artistic wooden boards. An odd paper tacked on a tree, with the details of an experiment, is a giveaway that this wilderness is the home of academia.

    It’s only fitting, say proud scientists of Dehradun’s Wildlife Institute of India (WII), that the campus of India’s apex wildlife research and advocacy institute should be on the Shivaliks, sharing a habitat with 72 species of butterflies, 16 kinds of moth, 100 types of spiders and 309 kinds of birds that dot the large campus lake and the riverine streams twisting through it. You can’t afford to have arachnophobia here and forest-ripened resident researchers would guffaw at the thought.

    But now, there’s a heavy lull on the campus. In 1992, when the institute’s sprawling grounds were thrown open—shouldering Rajaji National Park, with its own inter-campus sal plantations, and an abundance of shrub, undergrowth and typha grasses—it was but expected that wildlife would follow. Or perhaps, the purists would claim, it was only to be expected that wildlife would continue to inhabit the same wooded areas. It was a matter of some excitement then, when a leopard started visiting from the very first year. Most years since then, several leopards, sometimes with cubs, have been threading their ways in, tip-toeing in along dry water channels.

    But this May is different.

    For the first time, the Wildlife Institute of India finds itself split down the middle. The institute which, as part of its curriculum advocates community co-existence with wildlife, is questioning its own teachings. What should be the fate of the canny, yet so-far courteous, cat which finds its way through the campus? There has never been any conflict with leopards on the campus, but the WII administration is nervous, saying there are increasing sightings of pugmarks since December.

    Since its inception, WII has been advocating the dream of the ‘wild’ animal; an ideal that, before the advent of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, people like Kenneth Anderson, Rudyard Kipling and Jim Corbett have lent voice to. It’s a fascination for the Jungle Book-Mowgli dream which is a fascination for what the Indian jungles themselves are: a sense that its animals are endemically Indian, inherently wild. That the wild Indian tiger, leopard, rock python and elephant should be left alone.

    “The ‘wild’ animal stand is an “emotive one,” says the WII administration, which suddenly finds itself unnerved by the presence of the animal. Yet, it’s a stand worth fighting for, say a handful of scientists, as the national institution gets ready to dart, capture and relocate the leopard, moving it as far away from campus as possible.

    It did not take the institute long to make the arrangements: a cage was to come from Asarori range, instructions were given out, the darts were made ready, a radio-collar to monitor the animal was called for, everything was in order. Till a group of senior scientists and students protested, pointing out that this was against the ethics that the institute taught in the classrooms, and in the field. If the institute did not allow animals to range, be ‘wild’, and explore their habitat, then how could it justify its own existence?

    The operation since then has ground to a halt, and budding wildlife scientists, residents and researchers have been given forms to fill out.

    ‘Have you ever seen a leopard?’ probes one of the questions. Tick one answer, instructs another. ‘Passion,’ ‘source of livelihood’, ‘nuisance’, ‘problem which needs to be tackled’, or ‘any other’: which one of the following is wildlife? And the most interesting: who would you hold responsible if the leopard attacks someone on campus? Would it be, ‘WII’, ‘the leopard’, an ‘accident’, or ‘no one’?

    It has since turned out that the yawning gap between blaming the ‘leopard’ and ‘WII’ is a decidedly large one.

    “In the survey, 40 per cent of respondents have said that they have changed their daily activity patterns due to the leopard’s movement. The residents, particularly children, are concerned. We are monitoring the leopard on a daily basis and efforts are on to trap and radio-collar it. There is a school of thought which believes the leopard should not be moved, that if it is moved, it may become a problem animal, but this is largely an emotive stand,” says Dr V.B. Mathur, WII dean.

    But what does it mean to have the shock of seeing a leopard in your backyard? It is a feeling that’s hard to explain for any human, but perhaps a bit more of a homecoming for a wildlife professional.

    “Wildlife conservation is a science. It is also a value. We teach values, we teach ethics, we teach science. The question is: do I look at a wild leopard in a backyard as a threat, or do I look at is a privilege?” asks Qamar Qureshi, WII scientist who specialises in landscape ecology. “We agree that conservation needs a voice. We have to give it that voice. How can we disturb an animal which comes to the campus lake to drink water, and one which has been here for years?” he says.

    “This campus itself is a statement. There is a reason why we are nestled next to the forest, why we let wilderness flourish here. One of the reasons why many of us choose to work for this institution is the campus,” says another scientist, pointing out with some pride the startlingly clear sight of the Great Bear in the evening sky. One side of the campus, flanking a riverine stream that bisects it, is called ‘West Bank’ or ‘Gaza’ depending on that particular evening’s humour.

    If the WII campus is an affirmation of a certain way of looking at the wilderness, the city of Dehradun, two kilometers down the road, is about the discreet, British view of gentle, cultivated nature. The new high-rises and burgeoning polite schools that have come up in the city peek out from behind sub-alpine trees on slopes: the right number of trees, no wild grasses. Opposite the crumbling Astley Hall, both children and adults line up for that famous Dehra confectionery: stick jaws, displayed in neat windows with pineapple upside down cake and rich plums. In a high-ceiling shop down Rajpur Road, British prints in gilt frames serve as a reminder of what once was. There are antique bottles of Golconda brandy, amazing periscopes and cranky theodolites. There’s also a black-and-white print of two cherubic white children gazing at a leopard skin on the floor: ‘leopard skin’, reads the italized name of the artwork.

    But what of the leopard that some of WII calls its own? “The WII leopard is in a zone where ample habitat and prey exist. The campus is well-connected with extensive forests through Rajaji. It is not a problem animal. It has lived in human-forest areas without conflict. Removing it will vacate its home range that is likely to be occupied by another leopard, and may result in conflict,” says Yadavendra Jhala, WII scientist.

    “Besides,” he says, “WII has wildlife professionals who surely know how to alter their lifestyles to avoid conflict with a large carnivore—this is what we teach and value. I believe it is a small price to pay for the privilege of sharing the campus with a leopard”.

    Over the next weeks, the dimensions of that privilege will be scanned and mapped out.

    Link - http://www.indianexpress.com/news/ca...spots/616916/0
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

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    How Tragic!

    Don't know how to react when such a venerable institute stoops to such lows. I am sure such acts will be making the luminaries like the Late Kailash Sankala twisting and turning in their graves.

    The Mission of Wildlife Institute of India:
    "
    ...is to nurture the development of wildlife science and promote its application in conservation, in consonants with our cultural and socio-economic milieu".

    One can easily understand how far WII have moved from their mission.

    This issue raises several questions in my mind:
    Is our research just an academic pursuit? There are more researchers than wild tigers and everybody seems to be interested in using the latest tools just for the sake of it.

    Is our conservation elitist? Is it just a theoretical exercise by a few researchers, who have no will, understanding or ability to practice what they preach?

    Unfortunately, we are reaching a stage where mediocrity and intellectual sterility is the norm. This act of WII of setting fire to the trees to dissuade a leopard visiting the campus is like the final nail in the coffin. I am surprised, even a week after this news have appeared, the muddle headed director and the administration of WII still continue to retain their positions.

    Sabyasachi

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    This is exactly why conservation in India is almost a failure. People who preach do not practise.

    Academics is given more importance than core conservation values.

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    A friend on Facebook has promised to publish before and after photos. This is ridiculous. Are the (governtmental) guardians of our forests its worst enemies. First we have the FD of Madhya Pradesh running over tigers and now this.

    Here is a link to a blog started by WII students:

    http://oegs.blogspot.com/

    Apana

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    Apana,
    Thanks for sharing the link. I am amazed that the administration has threatened students who tried to douse the fire. Later on bringing in bulldozers to level the ground shows that in this case they are behaving no different than the land mafia. This is absolutely horrifying. Such actions are going to turn away people from wildlife research and conservation.

    Sabyasachi

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    It is shame on Wildlife Institute of India (WII), which seems to preach only about wildlife and human animal conflicts.
    ^^^^^^^^^________________^^""=`~/^^\!

    You can plant trees but cannot create forests

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    It sure is sad that the preachers violate the rules they preach. Hopefully they shall be exemplary in better ways than this in the future. The WII is the most respected institution in wildlife and conservation in India. Such incidents show it in very poor light. In order to motivate the conservation fraternity, the WII will have to avoid such events.
    Regards,
    Regards,
    Bibhav Behera
    www.bibhavbehera.com

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