Monday, March 5, 2012

Tigers, Leopards & Us !

When you drink water, remember where the mountain spring is…Chinese proverb.

Recently there was a photograph on Facebook of a leopard beaten by the angry mob & faces in the mob were clearly enjoying beating the trapped animal to death! And many FB users, nature lovers cursed the mob for the act as obiviously the scene was like stab in heart for any wild life lover!
Then there was news in papers about a tigress death near forest research center at Chndrapur district in Maharashtra State. The tigress was with two cubs who become orphan by the death of their mother. One cub was found near the body of the mother & another got lost in forest & as per news the forest officials were searching for the same. Here NGO’s & nature lovers claimed that it was a poacher’s act & the tigress was electrocuted & died out of the electric wire trap laid by poachers. Whereas forest officials didn’t gave any clear statement but quoted vague things like it might have been accident & looking at the injuries the tigress has been hit by some speeding vehicle on road nearby.
And very recently there was news in paper about death of a male tiger again in buffer zone i.e. fringe area outside of Tadoba tiger reserve & the body is found after 7-8 days after the death is what media claimed! This also is said as poachers act but forest department said it’s natural death by aging whereas onlookers & NGO’s said the tiger wasn’t that old to die because of aging!

Well people like us who live in Metro’s i.e. Pune/Mumbai  either mostly ignore such news or post our concern in FB or Twitter & forget about the incidences till again we came across any such news. Even on FB there is usual comment war & blaming & that’s it! Many will say what more we can do & its not our job let the concern people find the solution. I have come across many who even go to argue at such level that what difference it makes if few tigers die or you don’t see sparrows or birds in cities! Aren’t there enough problems we are facing like traffic, water, drainage, home prices! Why to beat our heads over animals & forests which are miles away from the cities & let’s focus on our own problems! I really don’t have proper counter argument when such points are raised except questions like does we as human beings who considers our self as most powerfully developed brains have got no responsibility towards other species that are not developed like us? Isn't being powerful means taking care of others who are weak in comparison to us? And if answer is yes then what are we doing to perform our responsibility towards this cause? Leave apart the platonic ideas like how the world will be without music of birds & fragrance of trees & butterflies etc but shear as our duty towards the weaker ones what are we doing for them?

Some where the answer lays with all of us even those who don’t indulge in such arguments & turns a blind eye on any of the argument. Now here many will say what we as individual can do when there is government for such things? This answer is worst than the people who are enjoying to kill the trapped leopard because what is government but us!
Going case by case yes the faces in the snap killing the leopard may seem to be enjoying the act but then it’s easy to criticize them by sitting in our office space or secured home in city & post of FB. Imagine our self living in hutments in rural areas on fringe of forests where leopards & tigers are roaming around & can lift your kid playing outside of the home or killing your cows which are source of your income which is mere enough to make your family survive.  Then you will understand, this mob considers them as their worst enemy & that’s why if at all you see joy on their faces while killing the entrapped leopards then it’s because they have finally got their enemy! No fault of the poor leopards, I am putting just facts.
Case two & three are bit similar, a tigress with cubs have too many restrictions. She has to protect them from male tiger that can kill them or even smaller predators like wild dogs as well she has to feed them.  And for that she has to roam around to get food for herself as well for the cubs. Similarly tiger leaving nation park & moving in fringe area is not a new thing for the people living around national park as the boundaries are made by human beings & for us to follow & not for the animals.

Exactly this is where the clash of human & animals come. Not only tigers & leopards but the nuisance to the adjoining people’s establishments is from dears, Neel-guy & wild bores too. As their herds can destroy the crops in one night leaving the farmers yearly crop gone for a toss! Naturally you can’t expect these people being friendly all the time with forest or animals. And what they do to protect their assets & life? They destroy the forest i.e. habitats of animals as well they make death traps for the animals killing them by every mean available from electrocuting too crude bombs too poisoning their food as well water! In addition to this when its animal like tiger who’s every part gets sold of there is entity like poachers! These poachers take advantage of knowledge of local people & their hatred for the animals because of nuscence they are causing & use them as assistant for poaching. All this is very logical & known facts! Forests are getting encroached by urban development around them which again is need of time as the ever increasing population needs homes & food & for that land is required.
Here is where the main problem is, whose has first claim on the land, humans or forests? I am saying forest because its not one specie like Tiger or Leopard we are talking about, they are just one link of the entire life cycle but right from the termites too tiger there are thousands of species of other living creature which are associated with the term forest & we have to give them their space. And this is job of human being. As we have different segments of society to whom various responsibilities have been delegated & the incidences mentioned above is indication of failure of the system. For example why the leopards have to come out of forest & hunt easier target like human being? Why the tigress has to move away from the dense forest & come on the road to get hit by speeding vehicle, even if the claim of forest department is accepted that it was an accident? Why the tiger deaths couldn’t notice till 7-8 days when there is full fledged forest department staff deputed over there?
Asking questions is easy but providing solutions & executing them is the main key which all of us forget. Need of the time is define the land use & follow it strictly. Enforce the concern departments to do the job & like in private industry periodical audit of results has to be there & failing in outcome strict & immediate action has to be taken on concerned people, may they be government or private. Even the political interference in such matters has to be stopped & that can happen only by public pressure that is aware for the cause.

There was news about forest department not having even enough cameras because of which the animal census has been getting delayed! Such things have to be planned in financial budgets & given priority. Any land use planning around the forest areas the final say has to be with forest department & not with urban development & the development as well regional plans has to be made jointly by these two departments. Right now no one knows where the boundary of buffer zone meets with boundary of regional plan. Shifting of affected human settlements due to forest has to be enforces & with due compensation & fast as time is the essence in such matters. Same is applicable for the compensation of damage due to animal attack on life or on crops or cattle's. Its not the just amount but the time goes in getting that amount makes people angry with the system & as they cant do any thing to the system that anger triggers on the poor animals or they find easy way to join hands with poachers & get read of the animal. The forest department should have enough funds to have informants like the crime branch of police or RAW of home department has which will make them aware before any killing happens.  Also ensure that the staff working in forest department loves the forest & not just does it for the sake of salary. Like a good teacher & bad teacher, both gets paid for teaching yet it’s the good teacher who makes the difference & converts an average student in to better one, the person who loves forest can do the difference in conservation. There has to be as I mentioned earlier, auditing system with the performance & generous rewards also. At the same time involve the people who are interested in contributing the cause of conservation. What I have observed is forest department's many official's have very closed mind about taking outsiders help or assistance, they may be right with their experience but in Metro’s many NGO’s have worked well with the local bodies & the results are good for the city. Similar things can be implemented at forest for better conservation. As like human population if animal’s population we want to grow then we will need space as well infrastructure for the same & for that we will need expertise also. Try to develop the areas around the forests more sustainable with infrastructure like irrigation, roads & transportation, medical & educational facilities & controlled tourism  which will make the people beneficiary & they will realize it’s because of the forest they are getting benefited & then only they will love the forest & make friends with it. Rather special ECONOMIC packages has to be worked out for people living around forests!

As the proverb says when we enjoy our luxuries we should be responsible enough to know what the source of them is! 

And instead cursing the government don’t forget  each of us has got government in us, we can at least raise our voice & speak what we feel about all such issues as well think what you can do to support the system. Like right from donating many household things to the people residing in or around the forests  to actually go & visit such places & understand the actual facts about them so many things can be done. After all every major change has started from some individual effort & you can be that change, mind it!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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