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Thread: thoughts of an ex poacher

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    Default thoughts of an ex poacher

    I was a poacher and i love animals if that is not a conflict of two interests I do not know what is, My reaons for this statement along with my love for wildlife have always been a reason for conflict inside me. The reason I openly admit to poaching is the fact that old hunters make the best conservationists. Every area that has wildlife has also some of the best trackers and hunters.

    The reason most men from villages resort to hunting is for food to a major extent but the number one reason is economics. I do not know what the price of meat is in india today but when I left India it was Rs 130 per kilo. How many villagers could afford that 13 years ago? Very few compare that to the price of a shotgun cartridge and you not only have meat for the family but enough left to sell to the rest of the people.

    My reason for hunting/poaching was purely sport. I used to go to the villages befriend the hunters and I killed game with their help, in learning tracking and bushcraft, the result of this was that the local poachers stopped using snares which kill indiscriminately, they stopped using horrendus boobytraps to kill game and I might also add the areas that I hunted did not have any felines present which resulted in a population explosion of herbivores which ruined a lot of crops and to adress the situation the local government did not take any steps.

    My suggestion to those who are in a position to do something to is to befriend the local poachers and pay them to help track game for photography. By doing so not only are you providing them with a job you are also giving them a reason to save the animals rather than kill them. The second reason why conservation efforts are useless is that the so called protectors of the wildlife are the ones helping the poachers.

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    Birders and conservationists who have visited Mangalajodi near Chilika Lake, Orissa fondly talk of Kishore Behera, the “Veerapaan” of Chilika. Jim Corbett would have devoted an entire chapter, rhapsodically describing this erstwhile & colourful poacher. Today he is leading ex-poachers of this small hamlet towards conservation of birds at Mangalajodi.

    I used to wonder the utility of poaching migratory birds. Do poachers sell live birds to collectors as exotic pets? The answer of course was in the dhabas dotting the NH. According to Kishore, there was (and perhaps is) a great gustatory demand amongst NH commuters for these birds. Poaching migratory birds, thus offered quick buck for the villagers.

    So, I agree with you Pawan. Poaching has its roots in economics.

    You also mentioned about hunting the game with the help of local trackers; here I assume you were referring to sheetals, deers, sambhars or wild boars. You justified your action as controlled poaching (prevalent in many acclaimed game reserves).

    Still, I am not able to come to terms with hunting for the sake of sports or pleasure.

    However, your suggestion of coupling ex-poachers, tracking & photography with economics makes sense. I would like to build on that idea here.

    Most of the guides at Mangalajodi are ex-poachers. Kishore can identify a bird by its call. He knows the marshland like the back of his palms. The other guides know secret spots frequented by a bar-headed geese or Ruddy Shelducks. However, to become guide to photographers, they have to communicate properly. My guide, for that matter, Kishore, referred to the birds by local names and at times just by their weight! I am a native of Orissa; hence, I was able to understand & communicate with them. Photographers from other regions might face difficulty here. Therefore, to make these ex-poachers effective partners for a photo shoot, perhaps we could start a small education program or at least a communication improvement program. I am sure this would help build the USP of Mangalajodi and other such places.

    I am a tad confused about the tailpiece of your thread; of so-called protectors of wildlife helping the poachers and thus making conservation null and void. I get your point & I do not get your point! :

    Personally, I feel many people passionate about conservation are Utopians. Just because we are "aware", we "write" intelligent articles on conservation, does not give us the right or for that matter the privilege to force our gratuitous opinions on others. Most of us do that a lot without practicing it; and that includes me. Selective amnesia is indeed in vogue amongst the intelligentsia today.

    Leaf through the brochure of any eco-wildlife resort. It extols about the AC rooms, Jacuzzis, gourmet food and satellite TV. The flora and fauna of the place are almost secondary. For a few hundred rupees more, safari drivers are ready to “chase” and thus traumatize a big cat to give their valued customer that adrenalin rush. The resort management cartel continues obfuscating & denying facts to justify such incidents.

    Eco-tourists in their designer wear pack safari jeeps, at times holler, shout, elbow, and jostle when they sight a big cat. As Sabyasachi once lamented, on a recent trip to Kabini (S-India), he saw a troop of well-heeled tourists going bonkers with joy after sighting a Rhinoceros; the Rhino here on the contrary was actually a Gaur! We drive at 60kmh whereas the speed limit is 30kmh inside wildlife sanctuaries. Some of us drive a thousand KM to be close to nature, never minding the carbon footprint we leave behind. We might as well have felled a few trees instead.

    Pawan, the dichotomy that you mentioned is not unique to you. I cannot speak about others, but I too am a victim of this double existence.

    But utterly discounting conservationists might not be prudent. Well begun is half done. In the fight for conserving nature, I would say being aware is half done. The next step is action on ground zero.

    So, when do we start?
    Last edited by Ranbir Mahapatra; 14-03-2009 at 01:40 PM.

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    My comment in the end was refeering to the forest guards. How many of them do you think can live on the salary that the government pays them?

    Incidentaly A few Years back I spoke with a leading wildlife consultant in the U.S. who had just returned from Dehradun. He had been invited by the Indian government to give his thoughts on conserving forests and wildlife management, His first comment to me when I asked what would be the best method for wildlife management in India was that the country dsprately needs a hunting programme.

    His reason he told me for saying that was for starters the wild life officials need more power(the local game warden here in the U.S is a lot more powerful than the police). The game laws here(U.S) are very strict in dealing with poachers and the hunting licenses here are very nominal. Ohio where I live has an extreme overpopulation of Whitetail deer who cause the largest number of car accidents, I have personaly seen them leap over my a car going down the road.

    A poacher here if caught with a poached animal can loose his weapons, his house where the meat was stored, all hunting previliges and face jail time and fines in the thousands of dollars. This is for a species of deer which was on the brink of extention at the turn of the sentury due to over hunting by white settlers along with the American bison.

    If I want to hunt here i buy a license for $ 23 U.S and a tag for a deer for $10 and since i prefer to give the animals a sporting chance ihave stopped using firearms and I use the bows and arrows I make myself. If i count the number of times I could have killed an animal but did not because i thought it was unethical to me or I just did not feel like killing it I would still be counting.
    I see deer in my backyard regularly along with other local game,The hunt to me is more in the ability to get close to the animal not just killing it.

    The hunting Industry here is a multibillion dollar Industry. Would the same approach work in India? I think not because the structure is not strong enough to stop the crooks from getting away with it, the penalties for harassing wildlife here are more severe than anything,and blocking an animals path to me is harassment of the animal. Even the possesion of a feather from a raptor such as a bald eagle is a crime here.

    To me the best method of observing wild life is with a bicycle. I can approach animals without disturbing them to a large extent. I am not stinking up a clean place with petrol fumes and not littering the area with garbage as i put the tash in a garbage can in my house instead of the side of the road. To me this is nothing new as i did the same when I lived in India.

    Hunting is in the human nature as long as there are people there will be hunters. Its up to us to find a balance and start making an effort.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pawan Jit Singh View Post
    My comment in the end was refeering to the forest guards. How many of them do you think can live on the salary that the government pays them?

    Incidentaly A few Years back I spoke with a leading wildlife consultant in the U.S. who had just returned from Dehradun. He had been invited by the Indian government to give his thoughts on conserving forests and wildlife management, His first comment to me when I asked what would be the best method for wildlife management in India was that the country dsprately needs a hunting programme.

    His reason he told me for saying that was for starters the wild life officials need more power(the local game warden here in the U.S is a lot more powerful than the police). The game laws here(U.S) are very strict in dealing with poachers and the hunting licenses here are very nominal. Ohio where I live has an extreme overpopulation of Whitetail deer who cause the largest number of car accidents, I have personaly seen them leap over my a car going down the road.

    A poacher here if caught with a poached animal can loose his weapons, his house where the meat was stored, all hunting previliges and face jail time and fines in the thousands of dollars. This is for a species of deer which was on the brink of extention at the turn of the sentury due to over hunting by white settlers along with the American bison.

    If I want to hunt here i buy a license for $ 23 U.S and a tag for a deer for $10 and since i prefer to give the animals a sporting chance ihave stopped using firearms and I use the bows and arrows I make myself. If i count the number of times I could have killed an animal but did not because i thought it was unethical to me or I just did not feel like killing it I would still be counting.
    I see deer in my backyard regularly along with other local game,The hunt to me is more in the ability to get close to the animal not just killing it.

    The hunting Industry here is a multibillion dollar Industry. Would the same approach work in India? I think not because the structure is not strong enough to stop the crooks from getting away with it, the penalties for harassing wildlife here are more severe than anything,and blocking an animals path to me is harassment of the animal. Even the possesion of a feather from a raptor such as a bald eagle is a crime here.

    To me the best method of observing wild life is with a bicycle. I can approach animals without disturbing them to a large extent. I am not stinking up a clean place with petrol fumes and not littering the area with garbage as i put the tash in a garbage can in my house instead of the side of the road. To me this is nothing new as i did the same when I lived in India.

    Hunting is in the human nature as long as there are people there will be hunters. Its up to us to find a balance and start making an effort.
    Mr Singh,

    The situation in the US is far far different from that in India. In India, we're talking of a nation that has some of the world's best laws and the worst implementation. In this country, where fully implementing traffic rules is practically nearly impossible, we can't even think of hunting licenses!

    There is no such thing as an 'overpopulation' of ungulates here- it is simply not possible, hardly 4% of our geographical area sustains any worthwhile population of wildlife- more is never enough here. If there is cultivation around wildlife habitat, ungulates will come and raid them, no matter what their population is. If cattle graze in the forests, carnivores will attack and herbivores will come out even more to raid crops at night. These cannot be seen as results of 'overpopulation'. Hunting/culling cannot be justified under any circumstances in India. And, you can't expect the village poacher to pay for a permit, or to stick to the rules of so called 'sport'! He is there for cheap and easy meat, that is the beginning and end of it for him! Its a different ball game altogether here. Strict protection and isolation are the only things that work here.

    Cheers,
    Aditya
    Last edited by Aditya Panda; 14-03-2009 at 11:58 PM.

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    I couldnt agree with Aditya more. As such there is extensive poaching in almost all Reserves in the country. This would lead to a licence to kill. And the species which you say can be used as 'game' cannot be monitored after being killed. Most reserves in the country have numerous escape routes most of which are near impossible to monitor. Also the vegetation cover that is there in India is different from that in the US thereby furthering the difficulty of surveillance and control of the 'licensed hunting'. Lastly, poachers as such get a lot of support and help from the villages in and around the sanctuaries. Allowing game hunting here would be disastrous and catastrophic. Law implementations are almost negligible even though the pages in the books of law run into the big thousands in India.
    Regards,
    Bibhav Behera
    www.bibhavbehera.com

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    Strict Isolation and protection?
    From what?
    The people who want to see the animals thrive? My reason for the comparison was to give an example to see that if people decide to educate themselves a difference can be made. Lets face the facts here as long as people and animals come into conflict the animals lose. I am prohunting definately but only where it is possible. The present is not the time for India to allow hunting particularly where there is no sustainable population of game. The people plunder the forests for grazing, wood, leaves for making beeris, khair trees for katha. Its easy to surmise that isolation and protection is the only answer, how to do plan on educating the man living next to the forest that it is wrong for him to take his cows into the forest or not to gather firewood from it without even thinking of a way for him to be able to get what he needs from somewhere else. My suggestion was to use the people and at the same time provide them with a means of earning where both the animals and the people benefit. Its easy to go into the jungle in a car but howmany of us go to the forests and actually observe the animals going about their lives without disturbing them? How many of us pickup the plastic bags, bottles and god only knows what else? Not too long ago you could not even walk your dog on the street in Dalhousie after dark as the leopards were known to snatch dogs right from peoples hands people started leaving poisoned meat to kill the leopards. I have personaly seen herds of nilgais in Uttar Pradesh miles from any state forests eating wheat without a care in the world. The people were using crude booby traps to kill them and scare them away from the crops, what do you suggest the poor bugger that owned the field do as to him the animals are eating the roti out of his kids mouth? Thats the same situation with both Nilgai and wild boar on the India Pakistan border, particularly bad with wild boar there as the people on the other side of the border chase them across the border as the animal is Haram to the muslims. You need to find a way for the people to benefit from the animals, in order for them to want the animals to survive.

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    And how would game hunting solve that?
    Regards,
    Bibhav Behera
    www.bibhavbehera.com

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    read what i just wrote,the answer is ot allowing hunting,but getting the villagers to support the people protecting the animals and forests.how do you do that is the million dollar question.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pawan Jit Singh View Post
    Strict Isolation and protection?
    From what,The people who want to see the animals thrive?My reason for the comparison was to give an example to see that if people decide to educate themselves a difference can be made.Lets face the facts here as long as people and animals come into conflict the animals lose.I am prohunting definately but only where it is possible.the present is not the time for India to allow hunting particularly where there is no sustainable population of game.The people plunder the forests for grazing,wood,leaves for making beeris,khair trees for katha.Its easy to surmise that isolation and protection is the only answer,how to do plan on educating the man living next to the forest that it is wrong for him to take his cows into the forest or not to gather firewood from it without even thinking of a way for him to be able to get what he needs from somewhere else.My suggestion was to use the people and at the same time provide them with a means of earning where both the animals and the people benefit.Its easy to go into the jungle in a car but howmany of us go to the forests and actually observe the animals going about their lives without disturbing them?how many of us pickup the plastic bags,bottles and god only knows what else?Not too long ago you could not even walk your dog on the street in Dalhousie after dark as the leopards were known to snatch dogs right from peoples hands people started leaving poisoned meat to kill the leopards.I have personaly seen herds of nilgais in Uttar Pradesh miles from any state forests eating wheat without a care in the world.the people were using crude booby traps to kill them and scare them away from the crops,what do you suggest the poor bugger that owned the field do as to him the animals are eating the roti out of his kids mouth?thats the same situation with both Nilgai and wild boar on the India Pakistan border,particularly bad with wild boar there as the people on the other side of the border chase them across the border as the animal is Haram to the muslims.You need to find a way for the people to benefit from the animals,in order for them to want the animals to survive.
    Agreed. This is all the more reason for people to be kept away from wildlife habitats. There is no debate left over the fact the co-existence of wildlife and people in India is impossible. No where in the world can large mammals and humans co-exist in high densities. This is why isolation is necessary.

    Like I've said in my earlier post, implementation of laws and conviction rate is negligible, at least as far as wildlife cases are concerned. The villager in India knows that very well that poaching is wrong, that it is illegal and that it is necessary to save forests and wildlife. But he will not think long term- he is struggling for an existence and short term, immediate gains are what matter to him. There is nothing really left to educate, it is fiction that the 'poor villager is killing because he is ignorant/desperate/poor'. It is simply a case of extreme over population here. Human wildlife conflict will ALWAYS be there. Strict protection is the only answer to this. Villagers cannot be expected to get enlightened one fine day and decide to stop poaching and conserve instead- no, not in India at least! No amount of education can do that! Only strict protection will work here- we need more guards and more guns for them, better salaries and more power for them so that they do a better job of preventing poaching and other wildlife crimes. Nothing else will work.

    Having said all this, I'd still echo Bibhav's question- how will hunting solve all this in any way?
    Last edited by Aditya Panda; 15-03-2009 at 12:54 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pawan Jit Singh View Post
    read what i just wrote,the answer is ot allowing hunting,but getting the villagers to support the people protecting the animals and forests.how do you do that is the million dollar question.
    Exactly, its a million dollar question- by the time we find an answer to this question, there wont be any wildlife left to preserve! Better to stick to the tried and tested methods and intensify them.
    Last edited by Aditya Panda; 15-03-2009 at 12:58 AM.

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    Why Poaching?

    Why do people hunt illegally? Killing wild animals have been banned by the Govt. of India. People know that it is banned, but why do they do it? :

    • Pawan Jit feels it is cheaper to kill deer, sambar or other herbivores for the pot.

    There are other reasons as well:
    • Explosion of herbivore population as the forest now lacks felines.
    • The meat of wild herbivores taste better. Does it need explaining?
    • Element of "heroism" associated with killing wild animals “shikar” even though one shoots a deer drinking water or uses a snare to catch and kill any animal.
    • Poverty: lack of a livelihood forces people to take to poaching
    • Economics: It is much more profitable to engage in poaching wildlife than other crimes
    • Lack of enforcement of laws



    Explosion of herbivore population as the forest now lacks felines


    Let’s first examine at the issue of explosion of herbivore population due to lack of felines as this is the justification given by the proponents of killing or “Culling”:

    In earlier days, when human habitations were dispersed among jungles, the forests used to form the boundary of the human settlements. When one carnivore dies due to natural causes (or the occasional buck shot) another from the surrounding forests would come and take over the territory. In that manner, contiguous forests used to help in replenishing the stock. Today, when human habitations have become all pervasive and jungles are just small areas bound by this sea of humanity, animals can’t move from one jungle to another. So when an area becomes devoid of felines, the population of herbivores is bound to increase due to lack of natural predators. So the solution is not to kill the herbivores or “culling” as it is known abroad. One should look at the bigger picture.

    Re-establish the contiguity of our forests. Create corridors that link various forests, so that our forests are not isolated pockets. It is not easy, especially in these days when R&R is a big issue. However, one has to pay a price for a good thing. When there is a strong will, things get done easily. Once Rajesh Pilot, had promised to create a corridor between Sariska and Ranthambhore, though his village dausa would have been affected. After his sad demise in an accident, we don’t have a strong politician who can take up that cause.

    Re-establishing contiguity of our forests will also help in avoiding the problems of a closed gene pool that invariably happens when the inhabitants of a close forest are forest to inbreed due to lack of alternatives.

    To conclude, increase in herbivore population in an area beyond its carrying capacity is due to the loss in the ecological balance brought out by man. We are reducing the size of the forests, nature of forests, removing diversity and introducing monoculture in our forests etc so it leads to lowering the herbivore carrying capacity of our forests. We are responsible for this mess and rather than trying to understand the complex problem and resolve it, we are taking short cuts. I hope we understand the big picture and start resolving the core issue.

    Poverty/economics being the driving force behind poaching:
    I agree to some extent that lack of alternate livelihoods force people to take short cuts and poach wildlife. It is an accepted fact that the salary of our forest guards is meagre. And in this age of consumerism, when our wants are more than our needs, it becomes easier for people to succumb to temptations and poach. It is natural that most of the times, our forest guards turn a blind eye to poaching by influential people. The lack of enforcement of laws, slow process of trials in the courts, loopholes in the laws etc make the decision easier.

    I agree that we can engage the ex-poachers to help us tracking wildlife and get good photos. They can make more money in this manner and it will help in reducing the hunger pangs that force them towards poaching.

    Lack of enforcement of laws:
    Do you expect a 50 year old forest guard to run after the poachers? Half of the posts remain unfulfilled. There is hardly any money left for patrolling. In such a scenario, how do you expect that the forest department officials, even if they have the motive to enforce laws will be able to do so?

    Once a person is caught, the case drags on for ages. The rate of conviction in wildlife crimes is abysmal. So I agree with Pawan Jit that the US model with on the spot fines/ powers of the wardens would help. Fast rate of conviction will act as a deterrent.

    I agree with Pawan Jit that it is in our nature to kill. Only human beings are unscrupulous. We kill at the slightest provocation. And we kill without provocation. None of the animals engage in wanton killings. It is only human beings who do so. We don’t follow any rules and regulations unless controlled with an iron hand. So we need strict enforcement of our wildlife rules including the ban on hunting.

    In Africa and in USA they encourage hunters to hunt in some of the areas and the proceeds go towards protecting the forests. However, I would like to point out the money is not actually a problem. It is the paucity of ideas, tardy implementation and of course corruption. In most of the Sanctuaries and National Parks, more effort is on construction in the name of infrastructure development or ecotourism. These buildings are constructed in the prime areas frequented by wildlife. I was told that one of our National Parks in the north got about 60 crores of rupees and most of it is meant to convert or dissuade one community that is involved in poaching. There are lot of well meaning donors. They don’t know where to spend the money. Channelising that money to needy places is important. There are lots of things that can be done to save our wilderness areas and our wildlife. Hunting or culling is not at all a solution for us in India.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sabyasachi Patra View Post
    [FONT=Arial]
    In earlier days, when human habitations were dispersed among jungles, the forests used to form the boundary of the human settlements. When one carnivore dies due to natural causes (or the occasional buck shot) another from the surrounding forests would come and take over the territory. In that manner, contiguous forests used to help in replenishing the stock. Today, when human habitations have become all pervasive and jungles are just small areas bound by this sea of humanity, animals can’t move from one jungle to another. So when an area becomes devoid of felines, the population of herbivores is bound to increase due to lack of natural predators.
    This is not always true. In most cases in India, a forest becomes devoid of carnivores because the forest doesn't have enough prey base in the first place. Rampant poaching of herbivores drastically decreases prey base and carnivores either migrate away, or are killed after subsequently increasingly preying on cattle and coming into conflict with humans in other ways. The kind of extinction we saw in Sariska is a different ball game. Most tiger extinctions in places like Orissa have been gradual, over a long period of time, and the primary cause has been wiping out of prey base.

    Chandaka is a classic example- since the 60s, the tiger has become extinct there. This didn't lead to any rise in herbivores. The leopard too, was wiped out gradually, and only one or two might remain now, but still, after hours in the forest, one might get lucky to see a chital or two. This is because of the number of people poaching from that forest. If that poaching is stopped, and the herbivores make a strong come back, we can expect the remaining leopards to grow in numbers too. Even so, with such a tiny population of herbivores, crop raiding does take place. Even the last chital left in a forest will go and raid crops from nearby fields at night. This cannot be seen as a result of 'overpopulation'.

    The fact is, in an Indian situation, if carnivores are poached out, herbivores will not grow in population because local people in any case will always be cropping their population wantonly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sabyasachi Patra View Post
    Why Poaching?


    In earlier days, when human habitations were dispersed among jungles, the forests used to form the boundary of the human settlements. When one carnivore dies due to natural causes (or the occasional buck shot) another from the surrounding forests would come and take over the territory. In that manner, contiguous forests used to help in replenishing the stock. Today, when human habitations have become all pervasive and jungles are just small areas bound by this sea of humanity, animals can’t move from one jungle to another. So when an area becomes devoid of felines, the population of herbivores is bound to increase due to lack of natural predators.
    Aditya,

    I was responding to the scenario where herbivore population has exploded and there are no felines. For the sake of arguing, I had assumed a scenario where there is no poaching. On hindsight I think, I should have mentioned that for better clarity.

    As far as crop raiding is concerned, wild animals know no boundaries. They will choose the nutritious grasses, crops etc. It is better to cultivate crops that are not preferred by animals.

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    Default Simple Formula.

    There is a very simple formula to save wildlife.
    Strict policing and effective implementation of existing laws. The challenge is to find the political and administrative will to do it.

    I have lived my entire adult life in and around wilderness areas .I also interact and live among what is called the "local people" and after half a lifetime have come to the conclusion that protection is the only way out. The "local people" are Indian Society which is divided, fragmented by caste , class , economics ,religion and are not a single homogeneous lot. There will always be groups , sections - in some areas representing a majority and in some areas a minority - that will be against Parks. Without protection there will be no wildlife left.

    At the same time I do realise that we have to work towards educating , raising awarness etc among them. But we will be foolish if we think that this will work in isolation.

    The need of the hour is protection and wildlife will survive only as long as protection levels are high.
    Last edited by Vikram Nanjappa; 15-03-2009 at 01:43 PM.

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    I think, Pawan’s suggestion is being misconstrued here.

    He was giving many examples. Hunting to control overpopulations was one such example that happened in past. It might not be prudent in current scenarios though. Later he gave instance of the power a forest ranger enjoys in the US, compared to India. However, his moot point was to identify the trackers and poachers in highly infested areas and utilize their services for another kind of shoot – photography. That he believed would dissuade the poachers to hunt for a living.

    As suggested by others, wildlife reserves in India have to be contained and isolated. I want to ask how and against whom? For the past 30 years or so, it has always been a million dollar question, so let us inject some liquidity into this question now.


    After the Sariska tiger genocide, the wise men of Project Tiger did some introspection and brought out a comprehensive post mortem report on why Sariska happened and future of the Tiger in India. Vikram Thappar had strong reservation to this report.

    Mr. Thappar indisputably explicated that man animal conflict was the cause of vanishing forest & wildlife. The official project tiger report inclined towards a more co-existence kind of solution.

    It’s a clichéd statistics, there are 230 million Indians living below poverty line. They lead either a wretched “slumdog” existence in urban areas, or an equally tough life in villages. When push comes to shove, they move on to other locations, easiest hunt being forest reserves, where they practice agriculture or raise livestock.

    Contrary to popular believes forest soil is not necessarily fertile all the time. If you burn a section of the forest for cultivation, it might give you yield for 3-4 seasons and then become less tillable. Mind you, the yield is never high in the first place.

    Nevertheless, the BPL migrant forest usurper has to survive for more than 3 seasons! His answer to depleting yield is livestock. Goats are hardy and so are the Indian cows. With the initial capital made in the first seasons, the migrant buys livestock. Livestock will eat any vegetation. We all know what happens next.

    Due to overgrazing the forest top soil erodes. Every now and then leopards, dholes and at times tigers snatch livestock as easy meal. The migrant gets angry as the loss hits him where it hurts most: the stomach.

    Enter poacher or “hunter”. He suitably utilizes the concoction of this migrant resentment with the fetish for products related to tiger, leopard and other wild animals.

    If I were a poacher, I would not even give the migrant a paisa of my poaching loot. I will be his friend, his confidante against the forest guards and “tiger enthusiasts” and tell him I will risk my life to save his livestock against the big cats and the dhole. Every now and then, I will provide a lantern or radio set etc to the migrant as a token of gratitude.

    Now who will stop me from poaching??

    Anyways, coming back to the point, here we are talking about containment and isolation to preserve forests. How do we draw the line about containment?

    Who has the right to go in the forest? Are they:
    • Office bearers of Project Tiger and their cronies.
    • Self appointed experts on tigers and wildlife.
    • Wildlife enthusiasts & nature lovers
    • Photographers who want to get a good shot of the big cats.
    • Venture capitalists and other such deep pocket individuals who want to open “eco-tourists resorts”
    • The Migrant
    • The tribal


    Whom will you make to stay out of the forest? Why?

    India has survived on the pillars of co-existence. With India’s population exploding, the idea of iron hand isolation and containment is not feasible immediately. We are not talking of a zoo here that at best is spread over a few 100 acres and thus can be monitored.

    If it comes to hunger and survival, you and I might poach the 1300 or so wild tigers left today.

    If man is the problem for vanishing forests and tigers, address him first. Though the logic of isolation is perfect, I feel treating poachers and migrants as pariahs and thus ostracizing them will compound the problem. Isolation is not a long-term solution at all.

    We should be ideating of how to make the migrant make money, which is not in conflict with the wildlife resource. Eco-tourism, taking help of poachers to track animals for shooting, rehabilitations could be starts.

    The solution to India’s forest & wildlife conservation has to be social.
    Last edited by Ranbir Mahapatra; 15-03-2009 at 03:55 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vikram Nanjappa View Post
    There is a very simple formula to save wildlife.
    Strict policing and effective implementation of existing laws. The challenge is to find the political and administrative will to do it.

    I have lived my entire adult life in and around wilderness areas .I also interact and live among what is called the "local people" and after half a lifetime have come to the conclusion that protection is the only way out. The "local people" are Indian Society which is divided, fragmented by caste , class , economics ,religion and are not a single homogeneous lot. There will always be groups , sections - in some areas representing a majority and in some areas a minority - that will be against Parks. Without protection there will be no wildlife left.

    At the same time I do realise that we have to work towards educating , raising awarness etc among them. But we will be foolish if we think that this will work in isolation.

    The need of the hour is protection and wildlife will survive only as long as protection levels are high.
    I agree with Vikram on the point of complexity of this issue. Local people are indeed a diverse lot. I am reminded of the current army of psephologist's in India. Or for that matter the art of vote bank politics.

    Wildlife can be saved with more political intervention. I wish saving nature were a more pertinent political agenda for major political parties in India.

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    If we seek to satisfy everyone in this country socially and economically, and still want to save wildlife, we would really be dreaming a Utopian dream. This country has run out of land and resources. There is no feasible in which way we can satisfy everyone, every section in India and save wildlife at the same time. The ratio of human population to available land/water/forest/other resources is simply not sustainable the way things are going in today's India.

    "As suggested by others, wildlife reserves in India have to be contained and isolated. I want to ask how and against whom?"


    Our wildlife reserves have to be isolated from communities seeking an existence out of them- people who reside in them and depend upon them for a livelihood, people who come into conflict with wildlife.

    "Who has the right to go in the forest? Are they:

    * Office bearers of Project Tiger and their cronies.
    * Self appointed experts on tigers and wildlife.
    * Wildlife enthusiasts & nature lovers
    * Photographers who want to get a good shot of the big cats.
    * Venture capitalists and other such deep pocket individuals who want to open “eco-tourists resorts”
    * The Migrant
    * The tribal


    Whom will you make to stay out of the forest? Why?"


    Same answer as the previous question.
    Last edited by Aditya Panda; 15-03-2009 at 02:32 PM.

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    I agree. India's land to its vast population is skewed.

    Forest land is getting depleted. Pressure is high on it. We can draw a line or an electric fence today around all these forest land of ours. Tomorrow we have to break those fences and build new ones. Demand is going to increase not decrease. Not giving an alternative means of livelihood is like suppressing the problem and not eradicating it.

    I agree with you: We cannot please every Tom, Dick and Harry. Here man's (the usurpers) survival is pitted against the wildlife survival. In last 60yrs, man's priority has always superseded to that of the animal. Hence I am worried.

    I am reminded of a social intervention during the Indian Emergency. To tackle India's galloping population, Sanjay Gandhi launched an ambitious sterilization program. History books and sociologists have unanimously declared it a spectacularly resounding failure.

    I think our talks of absolute containment is similar to that. Pawan mentioned about witnessing nature on a bicycle. I am wondering if 20 of us (wildlife enthusiasts, photographers, conservationists) enlisting 5 great local poachers for tracking + 8 migrant villagers to carry heavy equipment perhaps and going by foot to track and explore the forest is a better way of conservation than creating more chasm between all the parties.

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    Having ranted on all this while about the necessity of isolating communities from wildlife reserves, let me add that I believe that the first beneficiaries of tourism/any other commercial benefit of wildlife reserves should be the very communities that have moved out to make space for wildlife. The kind of tourism you have suggested can be put into practice on the fringes of Protected Areas and along corridors connecting these PAs. This way, the PA serves as the strictly protected 'nucleus' habitat while at the same time pressure on the fringes is reduced and corridors are protected. But there is no second thought about the fact that our PAs must be absolutely devoid of any human habitation.

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    Default Internatinal Wildlife Crime.

    There is another dimension to poaching, one that is a threat not only to wildlife but also to what one can broadly term as ‘ National Security “ . In fact this is what fuels the sustained poaching of a particular species. I am talking about the illegal international wildlife trade.

    This is a very high profit venture and as it is illegal and operates across international boarders it has extremely close links and in some cases is one and the same as the illegal international drug, arms market. This market is used by insurgent/terrorist/rouge nations etc to fund their bloody wars, struggles or what ever you may chose to call them depending on your political affiliations.

    I know from personal experience in the duars , the links between wildlife crime, drug , liquor ,gunrunning ,insurgents and also the supply of young women for prostitution .Put simply it is the same people who control the lot.

    This aspect has not received the attention it deserves from both the chattering public and the law enforcement agencies in India.

    It is high time that we have a federal agency to tackle wildlife crime.

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    In India we are 1.2 billion plus population. And our rate of procreation and urge to engage in such activities is second to none. Does any one know what is the carrying capacity of our land? We are consuming far greater resources than is available. We all talk about carrying capacity of a forest and demand "culling" of herbivores. I fear, the day is not far, when our position would be akin to those elephants being culled in Africa.

    I have seen perennial streams drying up. If the last remaining tracts of forests are not left unmolested, then we are courting disaster. In Hindu Mythology, we had this demon Bhasmasura. He was granted a boon by Shiva that when Bhasmasura places his hand on someones head, the person will turn into ashes.

    To test that boon, Bhasmasura started chasing Shiva, until a doubt was created in his mind that the boon doesn't work. He was tricked into testing it on himself. Bhasmasura promptly placed his hand on his head and was turned into ashes.

    Today, man is behaving like Bhasmasura. We are hell bent on placing that hand on our head and turning ourselves into ashes. I hope we understand our follies and preserve the last of the wilderness left in this country.

    In the days of british raj, people used to fear killing a tiger or elephant as that would invite the wrath of the Raj. Today the scenario is different. People know they can poach and still manage to escape. Create an example out of a few and then it will be easier to protect our forests.

    Strict enforcement of laws, moving people out of the forest areas and helping them with alternate livelihoods independent of forest produce would be of help.

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    Yes, the good old population explosion logic. Classic demand supply curve. I remember an interesting graph in my std 9 biology book. In the animal world (excluding some pests), the population curve always stabilizes at a point. Unfortunately this is not the case with us humans!

    We are intelligent. We can innovate to survive.

    But, now that we have ranted and taken course to mythology to buttress our argument...on a lighter note, I have suggestion

    Let conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts practice celibacy and check population! I am sure they can at least do that to save the tiger!!!
    Last edited by Ranbir Mahapatra; 15-03-2009 at 04:18 PM.

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    Finally we are getting to what my reason for starting this topic was, how can the common person help the wildlife and the villagers around the forests, my reason for suggesting befriendng the poachers was to provide them with alternate means of income rather than the temporary gain they get by killing the animals. I am definately against the lifting of the ban on hunting because the villages around the forests would gain nothing by the hunting of animals around them,(the crooked politicians and officials would).

    My example being africa which was a hotbed of poaching until the STRICT implimentation of game laws and STRICTLY REGULATED hunting, the reason for this success is that every village benefits directly from the hunting of game, hunters from across the world spend thousands of dollars for a week of hunting where they might not even suceed in killing any game, the license fees thus obtained are reinvested in salaries for the game wardens, guards, guns, gps devices walkietakies and so on. If an animal is killed by the hunter the meat is distributed amongst the population free of charge, villagers are paid cash rewards for turning in poachers. This is not possible in India as the people who are ready to Impliment the law often suffer at the hands of the higher officials for being uncorruptable.

    If we as the commen people start providing the poachers with an alternate means of income which ensures that there is game for them to show the people then we remove the reason for them to kill those animals to a big extent.

    If we want to see the animals thrive we as people need to ensure that there is enough for them to eat. There are feeds here (U.S.) specifically developed for antlered wild animals. These are marketed to the people here who want to plant feed plots here to encourage deer to feed close to or on their property. Why simple hunters pay to hunt these animals. Instead of using this as attractants why have the people In India who want to encourage wildlife not used these for foraging for deer and other herbivores.

    You want to stop people from grazing their animals in the forest - encourage the cultivation of high yield fodder crops for the villagers cattle, and stop goats which are the most destructive grazers as they literally destroy the ground cover. When in the forest if you wish to eat eggs buy them from the village adjescent to the forest, buy the chickens from the villages for meat as they are a lot less destructive than goats and cheaper to raise. Its little things that make the bigger impact in the long run. We all need to start something and somewhere.

    Here if I want to observe wildlife in the state forests I would have to park my vehicle atleast 2 Km and then either treck the rest of the area to spot game or ride my bike. If someone camps in the forests they are required to cleanup when they leave, It does not happen 100% but it does happen more often than not. People are encouraged to observe animals in their habitat without harassing them and disturbing them.

    I find it more rewarding if I have to work a little bit harder.

    If I remember correctly the bisnois of rajisthan are an example to follow as black buck and chinkara thrive around their villages and they get money from the tourists who visit their villages to observe the animals.

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    Hi all,
    After going through all the posts I gained a lot of information. But I have some doubts..
    We blame poachers, they hunt and destroy wildlife. But who are encouraging it? They are not poaching to consume on their own. The main aim is getting some more money out of it. Its the higher society or so called educated mass who buy these for plesure of satisfing their hunger of wild-meat.
    Till the demand for the meat is not over poaching can't be stopped. People during discussions proudly say that we had this wild animal/bird's meat, m looking forward to have that animal. They taste so good etc etc..
    Superstition in our society also helping it a lot. I won't blame poachers 100% though they are committing a crime and should be punished, how can we punish the people behind the scene who encourage this?
    I think only awareness and strict implementation of law can help it. Simultaneously we need to provide alternative livelihoods for the ppl who depend on poaching with which they can meet their basic needs. Otherwise I am scared that this thing can not be stopped.

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    Agreed. The consumer is equally to blame as the poacher. There is need for awareness in the civil society too. It is sad that many 'educated' people from cities create a major demand for jungle meat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rudra Mohapatra View Post
    Hi all,
    After going through all the posts I gained a lot of information. But I have some doubts..
    We blame poachers, they hunt and destroy wildlife. But who are encouraging it? They are not poaching to consume on their own. The main aim is getting some more money out of it.
    Poaching of herbivores (excluding elephant and gaur) and birds are done for the pot. In most of the cases it is meant for their own consumption. Some ofcourse is sold in the local villages, small towns. Unless and until awareness is generated against it and unless it is combined with strict policing, speedy trials; this problem is not going to stop.

    As far as the poaching for carnivores like Tiger, Leopard etc are concerned, it is meant to cater to the international trade. It has become a means of generating money for terrorist groups as well. I know of a case when a LTTE fellow was caught with leopard skin at Rameswaram. This fellow was the brother of a senior LTTE official. So he immediately confessed his crime and went to jail. That was to defuse the situation and stop the finger to be pointed at LTTE. Similarly terrorists in North east are doing it. I don't know about the terrorists in AP, Orissa, Jharkhand (referred to as Maoists), whether they are also into wildlife trade or not. Atleast cultivation of narcotics is going on in some of the sanctuaries controlled by them.

    I would also like to point out another aspect of hunters in US. I am quoting from Robert M. Poole's article in National Geographic, dated Nov 2007.

    "Hunters in Private Sector play a growing role in conserving wildife. TED TURNER, who is a hunter as well as a media pioneer, is also the country's private landowner. He has worked tirelessly to restore the American bison through much of its range. Now he manages some two million acres in the U.S. for biodiversity and for sustainable ranching, timbering, fishing - and hunting.....he allows a few hunters to kill about 200 trophy elk each year - some 2 percent of his 10,000 elk herd. Each hunter pays $10,000 which brings two million dollars in revenues, annually. "

    Two million acres! That's a huge number. The learning from this is not to start shooting wildife in India, but to save wilderness areas and get revenues from them for people.

    Land around the Sanctuaries can be bought by wealthy individuals/trusts. Maintain the place. Obviously there will be spillover of animal and birds, as they do in the estates bordering the sanctuaries. Invite photographers to trek and photograph in those places. Announce competitions. One photograher and one trekker combination participate as a team. The sponsorships raised can go to the local people.

    Buying up land around the Sanctuaries will also stop construction or the so called development of those areas. Atleast, our forests can be safe.

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    It is the principle of a few being killed for the betterment of the heard in the U.S.unfortunately this is not possible in India or at least was not when I was living there as there is a limit to the ammount of land one person can own (technically)and also it is prohibited by law to own a wild animal or bird i.e: chital,sambar,nilgai or partridge or quail,either for breeding or for their meat,until such archaic laws are changed or special permission granted to landowners who wish to save these animals,I am truly at a loss for what to think.There are more obstacles for those that wish to save wildlife than there are for those that wish to harm it.

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    Default My view

    Poaching doesn't mean only for meat. Its applicable for some small animals or Birds. Poaching is done for all the body parts (Skins, Bones, Teeths, Nails etc..) My concern is, For whom this is becoming an International trade these days? The demand is coming from the higher society. To show our supremacy and status in the society we won't hesitate to wear the skin of a dead animal and ready to pay whatever it cost. But is the poacher getting this amount? No. its the middle man who is conducting all these is getting the creme. There are incidents I came through when even the conservation organisations encouraging this so that they can raid and show that they are doing the work (I have evidence and don't want to disclose the name in public). Examples of LAWERS involved in wildlife trades. So whom we are going to blame?

    Situation in US and in India is uncomparable. Main difference is population and poverty. If a person is dying out of hunger and you say that work for conservation, he won't. Rather he wil say that if I am getting 10000 rupees to kill a tiger I wil do it. Because I need money to feed my children. How much is the salary of a forest guard? and with a stick we expect he will face the well armed poachers. How can this be possible? A change in the mindset is required. If we give support and expect result than its worth it.

    Regarding controlled poaching- This is possible when we have sufficient resources. But I think no where in India we can say that, yaa we have sufficient animals and can poach a few. Time is to save the species we have. We are facing a lot of challanges and TOGETHER WE CAN come out of it.

    I may be wrong. With my small knowledge what I felt I expressed to get proper suggestion of wise ppl like you all. Forgive me if I am wrong.

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    Interestingly, a major demand of big cat skin comes from the Buddhist monks of Tibet. They cannot be called high society, perhaps religious society.

    The other day at a colleagues party, a big shot of a company came dressed in a Pathan suit with a big necklace dangling out. The necklace's locket had two tiger claws. (machismo on display I guess). After befriending him and getting the shop name, I had a tough time convincing him not to wear it. Anyways, I plan to pay a visit to the shop this weekend.

    We have come up with many interesting conservation practices around the world. Controlled hunting to buying up forest land are just a few. Perhaps we are just scratching the surface. It will be good to write about success stories in conservation too.
    Last edited by Ranbir Mahapatra; 17-03-2009 at 10:05 PM.

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    I agree Ranbir. I would also add to this that I'd met a particular someone who was a senior Forest Official and had two giant 6 foot long Tusks in his house. He also had a leopard and a tiger skin adorning his drawing room wall. also hanging were antlers to name a few. When asked, he replied... "Oh these... They were confiscated from poachers". Now my point is that if they were confiscated, should they not have been destroyed. Have we not seen footages of huge heaps of tusks being burnt in Serengeti, Masaimara or the Kalahari. The whole point is that there are often lots of leak holes where these 'products' find their way back into the market.

    Another aspect which i would also bring in, although is a fringe point, is the fact that it it has become really difficult to displace villages from inside sanctuaries.
    CASE: Similipal Tiger Reserve. It houses a large number of villages both in its core and buffer areas. The authorities tried to coerce them into moving to land outside the park as they had started razing grounds for cultivation. The next move of the authorities was to establish a "Sabuja Bahini" or the "Green Army" from people belonging to these villages to help protect the forest and make up for the lack of forest staff thereby providing them employment under the condition that they leave the park area. That should have been an incentive to the villagers to move out but on the contrary, in my last visit, I found a two storeyed concrete house being built in a village inside the park. They seem to have no intention to move.
    Now here my point of contention is that if they stay ---> poachers stay ---> animals lose without even a chance. Under such circumstances how feasible would a new law's introduction be when old strategies are backfiring???
    Regards,
    Bibhav Behera
    www.bibhavbehera.com

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    Default @ Ranbir

    I dont think buddhist monks use tiger skins. Even dalailama protest against use of tiger skin and after his call only people burnt thousands of skins in tibet. People of tibet use to wear them during festivals not the monks.

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    Indeed you are right.

    I generalized Tibetan people with Buddhist monks. Faux pas from my side. I am aware of the plea of Dalai Lama of not using hides. This particular fashion is not so much in vogue today; though till very recently it was rampant.

    Interestingly, the Chinese authorities, with their strong anti Dalai Lama bias are still encouraging and at times coercing the Tibetans into keeping up with this tradition.

    The mud indeed gets murkier.

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    China is the biggest market for not only skins but all an any wild animal parts,Deer antlers,skin bones meat( medicinal uses)Soups made from animal penises(aphrodisiacs)and guess what this can all be sold and purchased legally.The route from tibed is the biggest smuggling route for animal products.

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