Thursday 5 March 2009

Cats and Corruption

Wild cats and corruption go together like ham and cheese or strawberries and cream. The cream is the financial profit from businesses who either want rid of the wildcat because it stands in the way of financial gain or they want to make profit from the wild cat, direct. And there is often a terribly close and cosy connection between big business and politicians and/or the leaders of quangos and other organizations concerned and charged with the preservation of the world's wild species. It is a frighteningly small step from financial profit to the eradication of the wild cat and it is only the authorities who acting honestly and in a principled manner who can break that step.

Important Note: I know that a massive amount of good work goes into preserving the tiger. This post is not intended to criticise India or any other country or culture. In the UK we wiped out all large wildlife hundreds of years ago or more. We failed miserably. In America it is little better. The West should not criticise the East but it can be talked about. I show videos in which the people of the country in question support my arguments.

The common denominator in many cases of wild cats and corruption is the land. Land that we love to own and space that we cherish and which a wildcat would call habitat. And a wild cat's habitat is essential to it for survival. The loss of the wildcat's habitat is the single biggest factor in its demise.

Of course, most of the action takes place behind closed doors and therefore out of the direct gaze of the media. But some of it leaks out like puss from a wound. Here are some examples that I have cobbled together:

Cats and Corruption - The Canadian lynx and the Timber business

I have just done some work on the Canadian lynx, which is why it came to mind first. I am thinking of the alleged corruption of the former Interior Department deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks in the USA, Julie MacDonald. She resigned her post in disgrace afterwards. What allegedly happened is so typical of the kind of business pressure that can take place in political decision making (and all decisions on the question of wild life habitat is ultimately based on a political decision, which in turn is based on business). A decision had to made as to the size and scope of "critical habitat for the lynx" for the threatened (in the USA not in Canada) Canadian lynx. The then deputy assistant decided that 1,841 square miles was adequate. This was to be inside the Glacier National Park in Montana, Voyagers National Park in Minnesota and North Cascades National Park in Washington.

This decision was challenged in the courts and the Interior Department of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided that Julie MacDonald had been pressurising the biologists to draw conclusions and write reports that favored the timber business and accordingly jeopardized the welfare of the already threatened lynx. A fresh assessment designated an area much, much larger (39,000 square miles) in Wyoming, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana and Washington. Someone spoke up for the lynx and all of us who care for the wild cats and wild animals are eternally grateful to that person or group of persons.

There is no doubt in my mind that the battle fought out over the lynx habitat in the USA is one of classic battle lines between business (and monetary gain) versus those concerned for the preservation of wildlife and the wild cats. In short it is the battle between two groups of people who have fundamentally different thought processes. On the one side we have people who are motivated by money and "success". These are more likely to be alpha types. They think short term and use and abuse to get what they want with little regard for the legacy they leave for their children and the future of the world. On the other hand, there are those who care less for money and more for quality of life, who earn enough and then seek other more meaningful work or pastimes. As a consequence, they are more likely to think long term, allow sensitivity to others intervene in their decision making and tend to ensure things are sustainable. There is a grey area in between, of course.

Perhaps it is the grey middle area where the corruption part of corruption and cats comes in. People who have choices to make in positions of authority have a tough job avoiding the temptations of financial gain. Even on a day to day, less high-profile way, local authorities are often torn between making the right decision and making money in the short term. I wonder, for example, whether the local authority in Louisiana allow Mr Sandlin to keep his tiger at Tiger Truck Stop, because it brings in more money for the authority?

Cats and Corruption - Pakistan

Pakistan has been described as a "failed state". Not be me but people in a better position to judge. A failed state must be one where systems break down and when the usual governmental systems break down there is little or no chance for the vulnerable wildcat. The following wild cats have been reported as living in Pakistan (src:
  • leopard (76 as at 1997 - a very small and vulnerable number).
  • snow leopard (62 as at 1997)
  • cheetah (I believe they are extinct in Pakistan)
  • Eurasian lynx
  • caracal
  • jungle cat
  • fishing cat
  • desert cat or wild cat
  • sand cat
  • Asian leopard cat
  • pallas cat
There is little in the way of animal protection laws in Pakistan if any at all and what there might be I am sure is totally unenforced. In the book Wild Cats of the World By Melvin E. Sunquist, Fiona Sunquist, as an example only, the wildcat is rare they say. It is shot and trapped as a pest and is forced to eat poultry (probably sharing land with farmers due to habitat loss). The wildcat's skin is much prized and is traded in north Pakistan. Village dogs are allowed to kill the wild cat and her kittens - enough said I think. There isn't protection of the wild cat so on that basis, in fact, it is probably hard to find cats and corruption because there are no laws or processes upon which to be corrupt but there will be moral and ethical corruption. In the video below, Imran Khan explains the power structure in Pakistan and the corrupt judges who are also power players. The judiciary must be independent and enforce the law. They create the culture of justice and proper behavior according to the law. If that leadership is broken it is more or less anarchy, which is the case - a broken country.

Cats and Corruption - India

I am going to show a video of an interview of Maneka Gandhi. She is the great fighter for animal rights in India. In a part of the interview she says that reserve organisers are killing or allowing the deaths (not sure) of the animals to allow the reserve to be closed or eroded in size for the mining of minerals. Maneka also says that her charity trains the police on Indian animal protection laws!

Here is a video on police corruption in India. If the police don't know the law and are also corrupt what chance protecting wild cats or any wild or domestic animal?

On a more specific point, at the Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India, it is alleged that the poaching of about 20 rhinos over the past 2 years & the death of 10 tigers in the last 100 days is due to corruption and inefficiency of the forest department of (src: MC Malakar, chief conservator of forest (wildlife) of Assam, said that some of the tigers died due to poisoning by villagers. Can we believe that? Maybe but it seems very convenient and very careless to me. This is were the reserve is (north east India):

View Larger Map

Cats and Corruption - China

If we go further east to places like China we see some pretty hideous treatment of cats. I have spoken of this before (see Cat Meat Name and Shame for example). There are no animal welfare laws in China as I understand it (wrong please correct me by leaving a comment). On that basis it is a bit like Pakistan; no law, no possibility for a corruption of the law. But there is corruption at many levels. And there is, I say, a dire corruption of values and morality in China in respect of wild cats and wild life, which is amply demonstrated in the trade in tiger parts for Chinese medicine and lots more (I am not saying there is a lack of morality generally please note). Here is another video:

These are just some examples. I am convinced that corruption exists in the Balkans, which threatens the endangered Balkan lynx and other wildlife. More cats and corruption I guess. More to come I am sure but I leave it there for now..................

Cats and Corruption to Wild Cat Species

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