Press on Environment and Wildlife
Tibet lifeline for vanishing tigers (March Week 2 (2006)) The Dalai Lama has thrown a lifeline to India’s dwindling tiger population after an emotional appeal to outlaw the trade in animal skins provoked an extraordinary reaction in his homeland, reports The Telegraph.
All over Tibet, there have been reports of people burning wild animal furs since the Dalai Lama made his appeal at a Buddhist prayer meeting in Amravati in Maharashtra in January.
Thousands of Tibetans attended the festival and many carried the Dalai Lama’s words back to their homeland.
“The reaction of the Tibetan people, now they have been made aware of the results of their actions — it gives a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel for the Indian tiger,” said Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.
An ancient tradition of wearing animal furs seemed to have been revived in Tibet in recent years, partly perhaps as a result of greater disposable income.
Since December 1999, 18 of 19 major seizures of wildlife parts or skins in India either involved Tibetans or were strongly linked to Tibet, said Wright.
In January, the Dalai Lama said he was “ashamed” to see images of Tibetans decorating themselves with skins and furs. “When you go back to your respective places, remember what I had said earlier and never use, sell or buy wild animals, their products or derivatives,” he told pilgrims at the Kalachakra, an initiation ceremony for Buddhists in Amravati.
Chinese authorities initially reacted with suspicion to the burning of skins, apparently seeing it as an expression of support for the Dalai Lama.
Eight Tibetans have been detained since late February in Sichuan province for carrying out the burning “under foreign influences”, according to Radio Free Asia, a US government-funded station.
A Tibetan delegate to China’s parliament denied reports of fur burning.
“There is no such problem,” said De Ji, a delegate from Shannan prefecture, south of the Tibetan capital Lhasa.
But Wright said the Chinese had taken some steps to outlaw the multi-million dollar trade in the past few days, which had until now been carried on openly on the streets and in the markets of Tibet.
“Frankly, the only country that hasn’t reacted is India. It has done nothing to clamp down on the illegal wildlife trade.”
India has ordered a tiger census after reports emerged last March that the entire population of up to 18 tigers in a sanctuary in western India had been killed by poachers.
A census in 2002 counted 3,642 tigers.
Wright said she saw 83 fresh tiger skins and thousands of fresh leopard skins on a trip to Tibet last year. In one street alone, in Linxia in Gansu province, she counted 163 leopard skins, most or all from India, on open display.
Forest officials shoot bison, trigger protests by villagers (March Week 2 (2006)) A bison was shot down by forest department officials in Cooch Behar, triggering fierce protests from villagers, reports The Indian Express.
According to reports, three bisons had strayed out of Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary on Tuesday.
While one was driven back, another was tamed with shots of tranquilisers. But the third ran into Mahishbari village, located around 17 km from the sanctuary.
Forest department officials said the bison was shot down out of public concern after it had injured three people. ‘‘With a mob of 4,000-5,000 people gathering after the attack, the law and order situation in the area was at stake. So there was no other way but to resort to this extreme step,’’ said an official.
But local sources said only one villager was injured in the attack. And that villager, too, is protesting against the killing. Now, the villagers living in the fringes of the forest have launched a mass campaign, collecting signatures and demanding the prosecution of the forest officials responsible for the killing.
The straying of wild animals has become a recurrent phenomenon in recent times. With the number of bisons in the sanctuary increasing manifold — the bison population has multiplied by as many as five times in the last decade — it is but natural that the bisons stray out of the forests in search of food.
Forest sources claim that thanks to successful conservation and stringent anti-poaching measures, the bison count in Jaldapara alone stands at a staggering 1,500.
Forest authorities added that such a drastic step is resorted to only in the rarest of circumstances and there had been no such killing in the past one year.
Wayanad forests lure animals from nearby parks (March Week 2 (2006))
With the summer heat picking up, the Wayanad forests in Kerala have started attracting wildlife from the adjoining national parks in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, forcing Forest authorities to step up anti-fire and anti-poaching measures, reports The Pioneer.
Forest guards since last week have seen groups of animals, including elephants, journeying into Wayanad from Nagarhole and Bandipore in Karnataka and Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu.
Availability of plenty of water and feed as well as thick and dark foliage have drawn the animals, escaping scorching heat and wildfires in the neighbouring national parks, Forest officials said.
"Wayanad has about 20 check-dams across streams and rivulets and 50 to 60 rainwater holes, where the moving animals can slake their thirst. Besides, the area has been made free from forest fire threat by taking effective steps," Deputy Conservator of Forest Phaneendra Kumar Rao, told PTI here.
Apart from normal steps like creation of 'fireline,' forest protection committees had been formed in fire-prone areas to rope in people's support for forest protection measures, he said.
Twenty anti-poaching squads had been formed this year by dividing the wildlife sanctuary into separate sections. Copious summer showers this season also augured well for Wayanad making it ideal for the seasonal visitors.
Consensus after census: Help! (Issue of the week, March Week 1 (2006)) The Indian Express who first broke the story of tiger numbers being suspect in Ranthambore reported on the latest census figures with the telling caption above.
Buzz is tiger count down from official 47 to about 15; Ranthambhore DFO says ‘we will lose everything’ if prompt action isn’t taken.
Alarm bells are ringing in India’s showpiece tiger reserve, the Ranthambhore National Park, and the man ringing them is the one in charge Deputy Field Director Raghuveer Singh Sekhawat.
With the three-day carnivore census indicating a figure even lower than last year’s “corrected estimate” of 26, Sekhawat’s call couldn’t be clearer: “The Centre, the state and non-state agencies must come together immediately or we will lose everything here in the next few years.”
He has reason to be worried. In the last one year alone, his staff have done four counts of the tiger. Following The Indian Express expose on 18 missing tigers last year, the state forest department, Wildlife Institute of India and independent experts brought the number down to 26 from the official 47.
“Even that number was highly optimistic. Everybody here knows we don’t have more than 15 tigers,” says a staff member. He isn’t the only one. In fact, there is a rare consensus among forest staff, guides and senior officials. Says one of them: “We know for sure we have at least 15. Maybe a few more. But don’t quote me before the official figure is announced.”
DFO Sekhawat who took charge after DFO G S Bhardwaj was shown the door last November following an Express report on poaching in Ranthambhore, refuses to be dragged into giving a number but on the future of the tiger here, he minces few words.
“The actual forest cover is shrinking every day with rampant grazing and associated pressure. With so many people entering the forest everyday, our existing protection level can’t warranty safety from poachers. Recently, we found a foot-trap chain. Unless a few quick decisions are taken and we act at the highest level, it won’t be long before Ranthambhore and its tigers disappear,” he told The Sunday Express.
Top priority, he says, are:
• A 50-km boundary wall. Cost: Rs 15 crore. “It will stop thousands of cattle that enter the park for grazing.”
• Staff, more staff. Including existing vacancies, 238 more are needed. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje recently promised to end the recruitment ban and assured 400 new personnel for the forest department. Sekhawat’s immediate requirement is about 150. “Our staff are old. The homeguards are no better. We need strong young men here,” says Sekhawat.
• Relocation of four villages (and the remaining 59 families of a fifth) and 150 Moghiya (tribal hunters) families from the park
• Development schemes in 96 surrounding villages to take pressure off the park. Earlier, a Rs 33-crore World Bank scheme failed as fund flow stopped because the government was able to spend only Rs 13.2 crore of the Rs 21.6 crore that came in.
• Upgrade amenities for ground staff on par with police force. For years, project allowance has been stuck at Rs 350 a month.
“We know we can’t do all these overnight. But we must start, we must send a message,” says Sekhawat.
Court renews production warrant against Sansar Chand (March Week 1 (2006)) The Tribune writes that the Delhi court has re-issued the production warrant against dreaded poacher and smuggler Sansar Chand, presently lodged in a Rajasthan jail, for initiating trial in six cases pending against him in the Capital.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sanjiv Jain has ordered that the accused, charged under the stringent MCOCA, be produced before him on March 10 in the cases registered by the Delhi police and later transferred to the CBI.
The poacher was earlier produced before a Special court for the first time in the capital on February 16.
The accused is presently lodged in jail in Manak Chowk in Rajasthan where he, along with his son, wife and two others are facing trial in a poaching case.
CBI told the court that they wanted to first begin trial in the case filed by the Kamla Market police and later entrusted to it, in which 41 leopard skins were seized and other wildlife articles recovered. There are five other cases against him in the capital.
The CBI had in December 23 filed a chargesheet against Sansar Chand, also known as Veerapan of North India, and his four associates under MCOCA, an Act which has been used for the first time in wildlife cases, for alleged poaching of tigers from Sariska wildlife sanctury.
The agency says it has succeeded in “unravelling Chand’s organised crime syndicate” and “established the entire chain of events from inception stage of wildlife products to its final circulation in the market” and also got information about his various accomplices.
There are around 57 cases under the Wildlife Act registered against him and his family members in Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
India and U.S for a clean climate (March Week 1 (2006)) The Pioneer reported on the Asia Pacific partnership for clean energy, an issue in the limelight during the visit of President Bush of the U.S.
Answering India's concerns over energy security alongside global apprehension over rising carbon dioxide emission from burning fossil fuel, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush have welcomed Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.
The Partnership was inked last year to look at clean energy production. The centrepiece of the partnership is developing clean coal technology and giving a thrust of technology transfer for renewable sources of energy. China, Japan, Australia, South Korea are the other partners in the new climate and energy deal.
The Partnership will enable the two countries to work with other nations to meet increasing energy needs of the region. It will collaborate, largely in the private sector, transfer of cleaner, cost effective technologies and practices, a joint statement issued after talks between the two leaders said.
The statement also welcomed India's interest in the Integrated Ocean Drilling Programme, an international marine research endeavour that will contribute to long-term energy solutions such as gas hydrates.
Led by Japan and the US, the programme aims to study, inter-alia, the unknown deep biosphere by studying core samples and monitoring boreholes, an important first step toward harnessing gas hydrates as a source of energy.
The National Gas Hydrate Programme has identified specific areas in Indian deep-sea waters for conducting further geo-scientific surveys. Commercial exploitation of gas hydrates is expected to start sometime in the period of 2015-2020.
The two countries also agreed to step up cooperation in fighting against wildlife trafficking and work together on conservation of wildlife through cooperation on park management and eco-tourism.
The joint statement noted that India had joined the global Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT) through which the two countries will collaborate in the fight against illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife parts.
The two countries also decided to use the opportunity to strengthen long-standing work together on the conservation of wildlife through cooperation on park management and eco-tourism. The coalition focuses on political and public attention on growing threats to wildlife from poaching and illegal trade.

Seven major US-based environmental and business groups with global interests and programmes have joined the coalition.
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