Saturday, December 29, 2018

Happy New Year; Ours & Theirs!

“Wherever there are wild animals in the world, there is always an opportunity for caring, compassion and kindness.”… Paul Oxton.

Paul is founder /director of Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation,   located in South Africa, is a small organization, making a big impact. “We live for helping the wildlife most at risk. We love working hands-on with the animals, and we do our utmost to help every animal we possibly can. I am founder/Director of Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation, and have dedicating my life to the conservation of wildlife, doing everything in my power to allow them to live in harmony with nature”… This is Paul’s FB status & I think it speaks all about him as well his passion for wild life! But sadly our country’s, not just rulers but most of people doesn’t think from the Paul’s perspective or else while the year 2018 is on the verge of end & when most people are busy in making plans to celebrate 31st Dec night,, I doubt anybody has even read the figures about tiger deaths in the year we are putting behind! Well, 49 tigers deaths occurred in the country in year 2018 & cumulatively nearly 384 tigers died un-natural death in last ten years! Well, as this is recorded figure by officials so there must be at least 10% addition in this in the form of tiger deaths which respective forest departments’ thinks the tiger exists but the locals as well wild lifers thinks other ways! Because tiger counting itself in first place is tricky job as recently not just the Country but entire World witnessed how difficult it is even in 2018 with every possible technology at hand to locate three grown up tigers (read tigress Avni & Cubs) for nearly more than three months & one cub is still wandering without being traced! So to keep track of every individual tiger is indeed difficult task & what’s more difficult is to keep control on tiger’s movements. And then it’s not Death Year for just tigers, now read these figures too, in years 1015/16 & 17, approximately 194 leopards have died (read got killed) unnatural death & in year 2018, nearly 66 numbers of leopards have met same fate! And if we are thinking its just doom’s year for cats, then read this; in the very same year i.e. 2018, some 51 numbers of elephants also have died unnatural death. When I say unnatural death  of some wild animals then it means, death by poaching, death by accident i.e. hit by vehicles on road (even by railways), death by falling in manmade well or water bodies, death by starvation, death by electrocution (electric shock ) & yes death by mob lynching too! There are few other reason also but above are most & no specie has been escaped from above reasons which are entirely man created only, making we the human only real reason for deaths of the wild animals which has every right (more than us) to live freely on this planet !

Now as usual news media, wild life lovers (this is new specie emerged recently in the society), NGO’s , social media & even politicians (read rulers too) start hitting at forest dept, how useless it is & all wild animal’s deaths are outcome of inefficient forest officers, etc. Well, not all part of that is wrong but problem is the current forest dept (including every State’s staff as well whatever with Central Govts) is totally insufficient (not incapable) to handle the conflict (read war) of 1200 million Indians Vs all the wild animals which includes Tigers, Elephants, Leopards, Hyenas, Mongoose, Snakes, Birds & millions of other such species! No need to say who ends up as winner (read survivor) but then in a country where thousands of humans meets death in so many forms no wonder nobody cares for wild life animals deaths in every possible way! On this background I remember my latest visit to USA & the road trip I did with my cousin from Buffalo to Boston, nearly 400 miles drive. It goes through densely wooded forest & nearly at every some 20 miles you see the warning signs of “Keep Slow” as well “Deer Crossing Point” & even average speed on the freeways is nearly 90 miles (140 km /hr) yet every one slows down when they see such signage. In entire drive time of 12 hours out of which some 6 hours drive was from forest land, I didn’t see a single road-kill, neither of deer or any animal lying on road. On the background I remembered hundreds of images that of dead snakes, jackals, jungle cats, civet cat, leopards & what not, on roads in our country, every time when I had travelled to forests & even on roads passing from farm lands in country side! I asked my cousin how come there are no accidents of hitting passing deer with so many vehicles moving at such high speed & there were many deer around. He said, the fines (punishment) are very heavy of killing a deer & if your speed is found above limit as well there are hidden cameras in forests where “Go Slow” signs are displayed. Any vehicle which runs away after killing deer or any wild animal is tracked as the CC TV cameras are regularly monitored & the authorities does finds out such vehicle & the driver responsible for killing wild animal & brought to Federal Courts for trial! Well well, no wonder a country where even wild anima’s life value is so much cares for its citizens too. More importantly USA recognize even the wild animals living there as their citizens & cares for getting them justice even after death!

Now look at scene around us, we don’t have road signs at most places where the movement of wild animals is frequent & if we have then no driver cares for such signage, is a fact as on the road from Nagpur to Kanha which comes under jurisdiction of Maharashtra & MP, mostly goes through forest & its age old corridor for wild animals. I have seen hundreds of animals lying dead on this road due to being hit by speeding vehicle but never in last twenty years have I seen any authorities (Police or Forest, not even NGO’s bothers as nobody is there to click snaps & publish in media of such initiative the way it gets published when such show is done at signals in busy Metro city) monitoring speed of vehicles here. Ok, how many of you have ever read a news in media that some car driver has been caught for hitting a tiger on road & was found driving above specified speed limit & booked as well sentenced for this crime! Not a single case I know (correct me happily if I am wrong) in our country where someone has booked & punished for being reason of wild animal death & by being on wrong side of law. Poaching apart off course as that’s strait way killing with gun or trap or weapon but even in these cases also we have seen how the judicial system keeps toying with evidences & takes its own time to convict. And I am not just referring to road kills of wild animals but farmers electrify their fence which is reason of death of many animals. Then there are trap lying around the farms causing serious injuries to wild animals resulting in their death as in forest nobody gives you room service but every animal has to feed itself! And then there is mob lynching of animals which accidently comes in human settlements (read village/town) adjoin to forests just for search of water or food.

Now many will say what’s fault of farmers, as are they not have right to protect their crops or what’s the fault of villagers killing a leopard which has entered in their village, are their life is not valuable? Indeed, human life is precious but that doesn’t make any wild life animal’s life of zero value, is something we need to understand as a human! I am well aware that in this country where millions has to fight for their day to day survival, though of lives of animals is bound to take back seat but then this is the balance we the people has to strike. As can we expect tigers, leopards or elephants thinking for human lives & making policies accordingly; no, isn’t it? So, whose responsibility is it to think of every life, may it be human or animal & make the policies, laws whatever we call & see that it gets followed making every specie live happily? Is it just forest departments job, because they wear khaki uniform & get paid as forest staff? No sir, it’s every individual person as well other department’s job too, to ensure safe life for wild animals of every specie! As then only we have got chance to conserve wild life here because on one side its good news that population of tigers is increasing & tiger is apex of wild life, this means many of species also are increasing but then what about providing space as well food & water for this increasing population of tigers & wild animals? Who is working to make this space which we tag as forest available for the tigers & leopards & elephants so they need not have to come in villages & towns for their food? I think answer we all know & its “Nobody”; its bitter truth but practically every dept (read our rulers) are busy in making polices for humans, may it be every recent lifting ban from constructing buildings near costal area (CRZ) to making lands NA (Non Agriculture) or building roads or railways from forests & making dam which causes forest lands to submerge, every our policy is made keeping humans in center & its natural as this is a country which is ruled by the people, for the people & of the people! And tigers & leopards are not people, is their misfortune!

I repeat I am not against development or making policies pro-human as I am also a human & I am very much aware about it but my only concern is does the definition of humanity ends at human being only? Aren’t all other animals & their well being, also is part of humanity? Go through every our ancient mythology or religion tells & you will find animals compassion or care has been always part of every religion & that’s a responsibility of being a human. But somehow in race for power, road to which goes through vote bank & only humans can vote, so every policy either is for vote or for revenue obviously made for humans welfare in mind. Result is the statistics mentioned in above news about deaths of all poor animals of different species! And then we blame forest dept for its failure in duty but where is infrastructure as well authority which they require to work for wild life conservation which is no more restricted for only within forest areas but every that land where wild life roams, may it for its survival! Because, can you explain a reserved forest concept to a tiger or a deer or a leopard? No, because it’s your maps, your zoning but animals can’t read maps or understand zoning & they will go in hunt for food & water & shelter where they get it, is a simple fact of wild life conservation which we are missing! And if in this process a leopard ends up dying under railway or speeding vehicles, getting electrocuted by farm fence, get killed by village mob, then every such death is crime of entire society & not just of some govt dept. Because we collectively as a society have repeatedly failed to conserve basic needs of wild animals is a fact & that’s main reason of all these deaths of tigers & other animals!

Solutions are there provided we want them, like we have Crime Branch in police force, why can’t we have Wild Life Crime Branch in forest dept with full powers (read authority) & supporting infra in form of man-power as well equipments (read guns), so that they can protect animals getting killed, outside the so called forest areas? And just that is not enough but our UD the Great i.e. Urban Development dept which makes provisions for spaces (read land) for we the humans, must start thinking with this wild life conservation vision & make wild life part of their urban planning! At the same time education dept can make wild life as a separate subject in school & not just some chapter in Environment Science as let every kid in this country know how important it is to make one tiger survive then only when he or she will grow up & learn driving, will be careful about life of wild animals on road! And lastly but hopefully our rulers (read MPs’ /MLAs’ & all elected members) realize that trees & wild animals may not vote but they are very much part of their constituency & they too are citizens!  As this “man-animal conflict’ is not a problem created by the wild animals; it’s created by the humans who are supposed to think for wild animals also, which they don’t! We the humans have forced this war of survival on wild animals whereas they are just trying to save themselves from us. Friends, 2018 was dark for every wild species in this country & while we toast our glasses to welcome 2019 & make resolutions of our fitness & wellbeing,  let’s make a resolution to save wild life also as there only lies a little bright hope for poor tigers & its brethren of Happy New Year!

Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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