Saturday, March 17, 2012

7. The Future of Indian Tigers and Asiatic Lions.

7. The Future of Indian Tigers and Asiatic Lions.
By Lavkumar Khachar

Now that I am on the roll, why stop? I have visited the Project Tiger Website and the first thing I found was huge errors in the location of several important Project Tiger Reserves on a rather amateurish outline map of India and its States. In fact, I would like to offer a quiz to those who follow my writing by asking they to find out which of the Preserves are wrongly sited. Glancing through the website, I was amazed at the how casually the entire thing had been put together as for instance, the photo gallery had none of the breathtakingly wonderful photographs that have been taken of this magnificent animal by a whole tribe of enthusiastic young Indian photographers. Surely, these should have found place here: the young enthusiasts are very much part of the environment which is justifying the huge expenditure of maintaining Project Tiger. Then there were no detailed maps of the various Reserves let alone satellite images that would have made surfing through so exciting. In the scientific section, there was nothing about the scientists who had, and currently are doing work on tigers……just information dished out about the stripes camouflaging the tigers, and the color of the iris being yellow in the normal animals and blue in the white! The whole site could have been better developed by some of the young naturalists who operate sites in India.
Information on Ranthambhore enlightens us that Prosopis juliflora is spreading into the Reserve thanks to goats and sheep………the question being why are the goats and sheep entering the protected area in the very first instance? Around the Bandhavgarh Reserve we learn there are several social groups that border on radicalism! No information about the amount of revenue from tourism that is being generated both for the State and various tour outfits which the local communities are not the beneficiaries of! Even I feel inclined to be counted among the pink tinged "intellectuals". The impression one gains is that those sitting in the air-conditioned offices of the Ministry of Environment are a bunch of tired 'Babus' doing things waiting for their retirement.  Where has the spirit of men like those who initiated Project Tiger in the late 1970s gone?
I have just had a message from one in the US saying that having heard of the friendliest tigers in the World of Ranthambhore, they had placed it on their itinerary only to find on their arriving that the tigers had been poached! I hope they were served poached eggs and not hard boiled ones for breakfast at the Forest Guest House. Here we have a warning for my friends in the Gujarat Forest Department not to become too casual about the successful spread of the lions outside the Gir. For the sake of the animals they are caring for, and their own reputations, the Wildlife Staff should not enter the field of publicity and keep away from the hospitality business. There are the Information and the Tourism Departments to take care of this side of things. These two Government Departments along with the others like Animal Husbandry, Social Welfare and above all Education should all be actively cooperating headed as they are by Secretaries drawn from the Indian Administrative Service. Above all, the large number of highly emotive young "wild lifers" should be fully integrated into the multi faceted tasking that conservation demands. The zealous guarding of operational turfs is to be deplored and is proving counterproductive.  As long as these closed mindsets prevail, let the Asiatic Lion remain in fact a Gujarati Lion.
                                                                                                                                                       Lavkumar Khachar.

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