Thursday, November 12, 2020

Poaching; Dark Side of the Wildlife!


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“Hypocrite: The man who murdered his parents, and then pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan.”... Abraham Lincoln

Well, well & how opt these words of wisdom of from a person who changed the course of the history not that of just some nation but nearly half of the globe & who else but Abraham Lincoln! Once again it’s his words of wisdom I used as an opener just the way very consistent Rohit Sharma is, for Mumbai Indians (it’s a club, in IPL Cricket League)! And why I used it, is due to a forward on whatsapp I received (yes, this medium does brings us some real good stuff also) about poaching of wild animals & arrests to the criminals in Bramhapuri, a taluka in Eastern Vidarbha. Well, we keep reading many such news & in the today’s world (read as Country) where even a million humans dyeing because of some epidemic, many of them just because lack of proper health-care & many more because of negligence & ignorance, even with such news the media & people gets bored & life come backs to normal, who cares for some wild animal & that too its poaching in some remote place which not many doesn’t know even exists! The whatsapp message also said apart from two people’s arrest two canines & ten claws also got seized from the culprits. The news didn’t said action by which dept i.e. Police or Forest & what happened next, means the criminals (poachers) arrested got sentenced or bailed out & got free on some thousand rupees bond! I am sure there are more chances of the later part i.e. bail to the poachers as again where the court doesn’t have time (and man power) to listen to pleas of thousand of human related crimes & jails are full of under trial convicts again why bother crowding the jails by adding two more humans & for what, killing some animal in forest, what even if it’s a tiger, is what some high paid lawyer must have argued & Hon Judge also would have accepted the logic in the lawyer’s such argument!  And then isn’t the tiger equally hazardous to the humans who are under constant threat of getting attacked by it as well doesn’t the tiger kills the only source of survival of poor villagers i.e. their cattle, so what’s big deal sometimes the tiger gets killed, may it be by poachers or by villagers who were only trying to protecting their lives & property from the tiger!

I am sure by now those who are wildlifer & nature lovers must have been very upset with all my such words but let me tell you, it is sarcasm & second, I too get equally upset whenever I read the news of poaching any animal, even a wild boar or some monitor lizard,  why just a tiger! But the problem is to my knowledge killing of a wild animal has got maximum of three years imprisonment with some Rs fifty thousand fine & if the animal is tiger & the crime happens in core area then the punishment can be of seven years with Rs Two Lakhs as penalty. Well, this is what frustrates me as seven years in jail is good punishment but for that one has to kill an animal in a core area which is protected itself like a jail. For the readers who don’t know what is a core area, its part of forest which is most protected & in a reserved tiger park like Tadoba. So in first place to get inside core area of any forest is impossible unless you sneak in on bare-feet as vehicular entry roads are mostly guarded by forest staff. And then let me ask a question to all the judicial system (law makers) with all due respect to their law making ability, if an animal is killed near village or not in some reserved forest or in no core area or say in the buffer (part of the forest between core & human establishment area) then punishment is three years but if the same animal is killed in a core area then the punishment is seven years then why it’s not so that if a human is murdered in forest then make it less punishable offense say ten years imprisonment but if the same human is murdered in a police station or near high court then only the punishment will be death sentence! People will say, are you gone nuts, what difference it makes whether someone is murdered in forest or village or near any court, a murder is murder, you have taken life of someone then pay it by giving your life as you are a murderer; well, point accepted but then why the same law is not made for wild animals, just because they don’t raise such question or they don’t have voting rights, is what I want to ask to the system we call govt! And then even if by negligent driving if you kill a human then also you have to spend many years in jail but if you kill an a wild animal outside of forest area, I doubt whether any serious punishment is there as again in the reserved forests entry of vehicles is anyway restricted so all the road accident deaths (killing) happens outside of the forests. And we are not even thinking about many animals like hyena, jackal or leopard or porcupine or snakes & such which are abundantly (well, used to) find around human settlements also which gets killed under fast moving vehicles on our highways which we showcase as sign of our development which we proudly call as progress! 

 

Coming back to poaching, our faulty law system is just tip of the iceberg when it comes to poaching i.e. killing wild animals for eating or trade. And we are not talking about wild animals getting killed by our electric fences which we do to protect our crops or un-protected wells in which many animal falls down & dies because of injuries or drowning! Now let’s focus on real poaching i.e. using traps or guns or poisons for eating or selling animal’s body parts like horn of a rhino or tiger canines or crocodile/snake skin, elephant’s tusks & many such! As we the humans can trade our fellow human's body parts (kidney or liver or blood) so how we can spare the animals! Biggest hurdle in proving a crime like poaching is getting a witness as unfortunately there are alarm calls in the forest but none of the birds or animals can give testimony in the court against any human that he or she  has killed their fellow animal & they all have seen it happening! As any wild life crime naturally happens away from human eyes (so called law abiding humans, I am referring too) & at such hours of night that to prove that crime is very difficult. So, all that an investigation agency can do is if they are able to seize the remnants of body parts of the animal in possession of the poachers then to link the crime with them & not many poachers are that dumb! And no such crime is possible unless local people i.e. natives around the forests are involved, so who will become witness against their own people & that too for killing some animal! I think the best way to deal is increase man power to the forest dept & just the way in police we have crime branch there must be a full-fledged crime branch at forest dept with enough man power & gun power. I am saying gun power because the people, who dare to enter in the forests or around the forests at night time risking their lives for getting killed not just by some tiger but by stepping on snake also, are not going to think to shoot at forest guards which are less in numbers & without a weapon like a gun! And if you are fighting against the criminals which are doing their job of killing how can you do it without creating fear in their minds that in the process they also can get killed if they get caught in the action! At the same time often there is conflict between two agencies while detecting poaching crimes i.e. between police & forest! And forest personnel have very limited power while operating out of reserved forests & police are either ignorant or not interested in these types of crimes so they seldom provide their infrastructure to nab the poachers unless any human assault is involved!

So a crime branch squad at every forest however small it may be or even undeclared or unreserved too & then making the natives self sufficient so that they don't succumb to the offer given by the poachers for giving information about the movement of wild animals or keeping their mouths shut & eyes & ear closed against the crime of poaching. One more way is fear which Viraapan has successfully tried for years, threatening the tribes or natives around the forests for their lives so if they don’t cooperate with his poaching mission then they won’t interfere in his poaching crimes, leave opposing it! So, again if some poacher can dare to threaten to the local residents around poachers its failure of the system we call govt may it be forest or police that they can make these locals believe in the system that the said system will protect them from the poachers! At the same time even in protected forests we need to give enough arms (weapons) to every guard as to my knowledge I haven’t seen even the Ranger rank officers carrying a gun as well the numbers does matters. There are anti-tiger poaching squads at tiger sanctuaries but what about buffers & forests which are not tiger sanctuaries, a tiger can always been found outside of project tiger, isn’t it & there its more easy to kill it & even the punishment by law is also lesser (sarcasm, can’t help)!!

And then if by overcoming all such hurdles of lesser man power, no guns, no cooperation from other agencies or the natives if any poacher is caught either in action or having possession of animal parts (evidence) then to take him in custody & produce in the court & make the court believe that this is real serious crime, wow I don’t fancy anymore the forest dept’s job! Well, keeping due respect, we all know how our judicial system moves even when some serious crime against the humans is there & here we are talking about crime against some animal’s which life far away from any judicial system & which has no access to any social media or print media to let their voice reach to the judges! Like we set up Green Tribunal for environment law suits fast track courts,  I think high time we must have Wild Life Crime Courts separate at every district level just to ensure that the wild life criminals gets to the conviction fast. As well these judges & the law enforcement system regarding the wildlife has to have knowledge of wildlife in first place to understand the nature of such crimes as then only they can understand the importance as well difficulties in gathering evidences in wildlife crimes.

Lastly I want to warn to the system (read as govt & the society combine), we already have created enough reasons to kill the wildlife around us & on top of it if we can’t even make a system which will punish the crimes like poaching which is murdering actually, then I need not to be a horoscope reader to tell the future of our wildlife!!

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Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.


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