Tuesday 9 June 2009

Muddled Tiger Conservation in India

I feel despair for the safety of the tiger. Every time we read local news stories about tiger conservation we notice clear signs that despite genuine attempts by many parties to the objective of saving the tiger in the wild, there is a lack of coordination at the least, which is weakening and diluting the efforts. And I intend no criticism but I feel it must be said as the number one party in all this is the tiger and he or she is going down the plug hole unless things change. Here are some examples of what I mean.

Please, I do not want to hear from people who say it is none of my business what happens in another country. The tiger belongs to the world. All people should be concerned and all should, I think, do their bit to help

In the Hindu News update Service we have a report of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) deciding to work more closely with the state governments to ensure proper use of central government funds in conserving the tiger in the states concerned. The Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh said that some states had failed to spend their budget! I find this astonishing. At least Rs 610 crore (apparently about $126 million) is allocated to tiger conservation and relocation of villages from central funds.

Are people at the sharp end saying that they don't have sufficient funds? Yes, it seems there are. A recent news story from Associated Press about the death of 30 big cats in Indian reserves (some of which seem to have been poisoned - see tiger poisoning) contains a quote from
R N Mehrotra, chief wildlife warden of Ranthambore National Park. He told the Press Association: "Any support will be helpful. States have their constraints. The investigation is a complex issue since you cannot single out any one cause for tiger deaths...Definitely there is a lack of personnel, and the lack of funds is another constraint. We cannot exclude the increasing demand for tiger products, poaching and other wildlife crimes."

So at the top there is funding that is not getting to the sharp end it seems. It would appear that the state governments are holding back some of the funds for purposes that they consider more important. This is either a demonstration of a lack of commitment at best or plain corruption at worst. I don't know which and I am not saying that there has been corruption.

Other examples of a lack of probity leak out daily almost, it seems. Regarding the 30 killed big cats in reserves mentioned above, a senior person said that he had received reports that some tigers had died as a result of "mutual combat". This sounded odd and an investigation as to deaths is planned to take place. It has now been decided by the NTCA to investigate each tiger death by an independent team to try and get a handle on the problem. Well, from thousands of miles away and without the benefit of a post mortem (if one takes place) I can smell underhand behavior.

How often do tigers fight each other to the death? On a commonsense basis this sounds wrong as it is against basic instincts of survival. In a study in 1993 regarding the dispersal of tigers in Nepal (http://www.jstor.org/pss/4535090) it was found that out of ten males that dispersed 2 died of intrasexual aggression (male to male). In that small sample 20% died of fights between each other. It cannot, therefore be used as a good reason for tiger deaths generally and I am surprised that the reserves have not run post mortems already. Why wait for the central authority to dictate the obvious? There can only be one reason: lack of commitment and/or probity.

Another example of general muddle or worse is the story of the tiger caught in a wire trap in Goa. The trap incidentally was in the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary. The poacher having caught the tiger shot it. The Goa forest officials handled the incident and failed to report to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) who felt that they were kept in the dark. A wildlife specialist (called an "activist" which has a slightly derogatory tone to it), Rajendra Kerkar, is reported to have said that the forest department is in league with the local politicians and the politicians are getting a piece of the action by sheltering the poachers. If that is true and it sounds like it is there is no chance for the tiger in the wild because corruption at this level will not change and it will totally undermine any serious attempts to save the tiger from extinction in the wild.

This is why I fear for the tiger and why I say that there is a muddled tiger conservation in India. Indeed I think it goes further than just muddled tiger conservation in India. Further reading:

From Muddled Tiger Conservation in India to Home Page

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