Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It Happens Only in India

Don't get me wrong. I'm characteristically, a very patriotic person but then this isn't about me. It's about some things that one wouldn't see anywhere else in the world and no, that doesn't mean the Taj Mahal. 
Thing is, the rate at which we're going, there may be a new Taj Mahal that comes up in say, Uzbekistan and it appears that will happen sooner than conservation.
[you can download this photo from the WWF website]

  I'm frankly afraid to even click on the "News" tab on Google. I really don't want to read any more Tiger death reports. I'd be very optimistic if I were to think that all those reports were about the same tiger. In the last 2 weeks, I've read about a minimum of 5 Tiger deaths. 3 in Kaziranga, 1 in Assam, 1 in Ranthambhore, and god knows how many others that go unreported!

I honestly find it a little weird that when, on one hand, so MUCH money is being poured into conserving JUST the Tiger, from so many countries, how is the ONE country with the largest wild population of the Royal Bengal Tiger, not able to keep them alive? Forget healthy and secluded.. but alive? I mean isn't that, a basic necessity? Life?
On the other hand, our government has its ambitious Project Tiger and the lesser I say about that, the better. But the point is, when we can make impromptu decisions to "relocate" Tigers from Ranthambhore to Sariska, because the latter 'ran out' of Tigers, we can't even ensure their safety? We don't do our research when we select the Tigers to be relocated, we put those animals through the immense pressure of tranquilization, load them into helicopters just outside Ranthambhore, and then fly them to Sariska and live with the notion that within months, Sariska will be choc-a-block with Tigers again! Is it just me or did all that just go waste? 
Because as I see it, the latest report about Tigers going extinct in the next 12 yrs if conservation efforts and governments don't pull up their socks [right now, stockings], may just turn out to be true. It may not be 12 years, it may end up being 16yrs. But is that why a massive proportion of the global population is trying their level best to pull India's national animal back up?

How does it not create an uproar, and I dont mean the social networking site kind, I mean an actual uproar, a revolution; when people hear of or read about or see the news about a Tiger relocated from Ranthambhore to Sariska dying? A large male in Bandhavgarh is missing, a Tigress in Bandhavgarh was run over by a speeding gypsy WITHIN the tiger reserve, a Tiger was shot dead yesterday morning by government officials in Assam because it attacked and killed 2 people [as per reports], 2 male Tiger cubs [they weren't exactly adults] were found dead near the Banas just outside Ranthambhore [please don't get technical about geography, it's not as important as the point Im trying to make].. and why just Tigers? For every Tiger that's reported dead [whatever the reason], at least 7 leopards go un-noticed. Is that fair as well?

I have utmost respect for the Leopard for I have never known  of a big cat more adaptive to changing environments. It is genuinely, the ultimate survivor. And even the ultimate survivor is falling. Why can't mankind just stop being such a proud race? Because quite honestly, we've done more harm than good to our home. We're paying for drinking water, we've got rains coming in randomly from any given minute of any given day, we've got mining leases being handed out like a buffet lunch on Sundays, we've got THE MOST diverse ecosystems imaginable for the world's 2nd most populated country and we're treating them like dog shit [sorry, but it's true]. We just drive over everything in our way. 

I do not say this because I will officially be a conservation biologist in a few years, but because I have the deepest, most pure and aggressive form of love for animals that there could be. And personally, I don't want my kids to learn about the most captivating cat species through their school history books! The mere thought scares the crap out of me! 

I am of the firm belief that if I had the opportunity, I would exterminate China, Japan and the two Koreas. That would cut off more than half the illegal wildlife trade market but unfortunately, it wont work. Africa, India, Indonesia, even Vietnam[!!], Madagascar, you name it, and the country is either the victim and/or a participant in this trade. Now is when we really need to buck up, we really need to speed up and what I call "sincere-ise" the process of conservation. There have been way too many Tigers, Leopard, Crocodiles, Snakes, Bears, Pangolins, Birds, Insects, Whales, Corals, Elephants, Gorillas, Gibbons, Monkeys, sacrificed at the gallows. We NEED to step up and take action. And very honestly, just a few productive, well planned, well thought out, and well executed, well meaning, and sustainable actions are better than a million "movements" initiated on social networking sites but zero in terms of on-ground-results. 

photo credit : Santosh Saligram

The single largest threat that so many of us know of - habitat destruction isn't that much of an "addiction" that we can't control it if we really want to, the most important words here being "really want to". I wouldn't be very gung-ho about having some weirdo bulldoze through my house and throw me out on the street because he wanted to build a shopping mall there! I'd turn around and fight. So is it that wrong for the wild animals to do just that? Im refraining from using the term "encroachment" because I don't think it sums this up. It's just a part of the problem. We've gone and multiplied faster than rabbits which is quite something by the way, and so we now have to struggle for equitable distribution of basic necessities [roti, kapda, makaan] and then, the life skills [education,employment, etc.], and then the luxuries [BMWs, Ferraris, pent-houses, 3 more houses, branded products, multiplexes, 5 star resorts, computers, junk food.. the list is endless]. 

A rather disturbing proportion of this country's population is living below poverty, an even more depressing number have no access to education, 2 meals a day, transport etc. And yet, somehow, we manage to complain about so many things! A little odd I'd say, considering we oust wild animals from their basic necessity providing areas and leave them barely ANY choice!

So I guess it's going to be a match unto death or a fight unto death between history text book publishers and conservationists/naturalists/environmentalists/the general population of the country and more importantly, the wildlife. Will we wait and watch as always, with the tele on in front of us and a bag of potato chips to dig in to, or will we get up, move our arses, and do something about it?