Burning Issues

Rhino Poaching

Hello Susan

Bikash Bora with emailbikashboradigipoint@gmail.com has sent the following message 

Another rhino in Kaziranga shot at, horn choppedoff 
Barely 24 hours after the gruesome incident inwhich poachers chopped off the horn of a live rhino after shooting at it,another pachyderm underwent a similar fate in the Kaziranga National Park inAssam Today.The latest incident took place at Burhapahar range of the Park. 
The rhino, which was shot at and its hornchopped off by suspected poachers in the wee hours of Thursday, is battling forlife and forest veterinarians are attending to it. 

In the wee hours of Wednesday, suspectedpoachers shot at a female rhino, which had strayed out of the park on Tuesdaynight searching for higher ground. They also chopped off the rhino's horn whenit was still alive and left the animal profusely bleeding. 

The rhino, which was attended to byveterinarians from the Kaziranga National Park is still alive. 

Kindly give a presser indian govt to save thisrare animal .Thanx

The message, received in our feedback mail, must set all of us nature lovers thinking....can we put all the blame on the Government?   We, as citizens cannot do anything to save our precious wildlife?

The use of rhino horn as a recreational drug or cancer treatment in Asia is based on myths, but has escalated exponentially over the last few years. As a result, rhino in Africa and Asia are brutally slaughtered in huge numbers for their horns. With prices able to fetch more than cocaine or gold, the trade is attracting the attention of organised crime and terrorist organisations alike. So whether you have a passion for rhinos or not, the trade could potentially still have an impact on all of our lives.

Rhino poaching is a symptom and the most effective way to tackle the problem is at the cause, which in this case is the demand for rhino horn. Stop the demand and the unlawful killing of rhinos will stop.
Watch this three minute youtube video which busts the myth about medicinal properties of rhino horn.

There are  a few things we can do and many more  ideas  will be there if the people who live around the Kaziranga Park put their mind to it.  The ideas given below are from a linkedin group called Wildlife professionals and I thought many of the suggestions are practical and implementable.   Here is what Dr Neil Wilson, Senior Ecologist at The Ecological Partnership in Forest Hills, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, has to say:

As a professional Ecologist with considerable field experience in Africa, I have the following views about eliminating rhino poaching and preventing the extinction of the Black and White Rhinos. Having eliminated rhino poachers in Southern Angola, carried out research on Black Rhino in Chizarira National Park in Zimbabwe and followed closely the extinction of the Northern White Rhino in West and Central Africa due to poaching and the rapid population decline of White and particularly Black Rhino, I am convinced that the following multi-faceted strategy is crucial to adopt without any delay to save the Black and White Rhinos from extinction: 

1. Safe havens or protected sanctuaries must be established to protect rhino comprehensively. Safe havens must be suitably protected to intercept incoming choppers used by poachers and poachers on foot. 
2. Rhino poachers, who usually are armed with automatic weapons, should be shot on sight. The Botswana Defence Force has this policy which was introduced by Ian Khama when he was head of the BDF. The shoot-to-kill policy is highly effective in Botswana. 
3. Rhino poaching syndicates must be infiltrated and all the information gathered about each and every syndicate member from the poachers to the syndicate leader. Once this information has been gathered, suitable, appropriate and severe action must be taken to eliminate the whole syndicate. This has been done effectively with the Tiger penis trade in India and South-east Asia. 
4. Rhino horn should be poisoned. A suitable poison can be used that will seriously affect a human user, while not affecting rhinos. 
5. Satellite tracking devices must be placed in each and every rhino horn. Any suspicious activity can immediately be acted on by conservation personnel in a particular area. 
6. Rapid Response Heavily Armed Reaction Units must be established at the closest airports to all rhino populations. These units will comprise of highly trained and heavily armed anti-poaching personnel who will be taken to incident areas by chopper. 
7. The South African Government and other governments where White and Black Rhino are found must take urgent, serious action and establish an effective Rhino Rescue Plan with China, Vietnam and other nations where rhino horn is marketed. 
8. The South African Department of Environmental Affairs must formulate and promote the Rhino Rescue Plan. 
9. Part of the Rhino Rescue Plan should include a massive educational drive to warn potential poachers and syndicate members of dire consequences of their actions, to inform communities about the serious threat to the survival of the Black and White Rhinos and to inform rhino horn users and potential users that the horn is chemically inert and does not have any herbal or aphrodisiac properties. The use of rhino horn for dagger handles should be dealt with in a similar way. 
10. The introduction of trained sniffer dogs by The Endangered Wildlife Trust at Oliver Tambo International is excellent. Trained sniffer dogs must be introduced at all other international airports in South Africa. 
11. Several conservation organisations are engaged in fund raising initiatives to help fund necessary anti-rhino poaching initiatives and equipment, including poacher interception cameras, poacher interception by choppers and automatic weapons for game guards. These initiatives are excellent, but need to be expanded. 
12. The South African Government and other governments where Black and White Rhino are found must set up special Rhino Conservation Funds to help fund rhino anti-poaching action. 

Calendar of the month

Desktop calendar for October 2012

RagooRao from Mysore has done some beautiful digital paintings, which we have converted into monthly calendars.  Please download these calendars free and use them as your desk top wall paper.

By clicking on RagooRao's name, you can read the numerous articles he has written for IndianWildlifeClub.com.  He is also a superb nature photographer.

To download the calendar suitable for the size of your desktop, please click on the link below.



Tiger Tourism

-Dr.Susan Sharma


Many of us who have been lucky to have spotted a tiger in the wild, would vouch for the fact that it changes our outlook on wildlife.   An urban dweller is suddenly reconnected to nature.   The ecosystem of which we are only a part, takes on a new significance.

Of late, there has been a hue and cry about buffer zones, tourist ban, core areas etc, all fueled by the alarming decline of our National animal.

The Forest Department controls and regulates visitor entry and holds primary responsibility for biodiversity conservation, including the tiger’s fate.    Project Tiger – now legally constituted as the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), has brought out some guidelines recently.  Also detailed guidelines have been issued about relocating families from within core areas.

The guidelines and protocols are indeed necessary in a vast country like India where wildlife and people co-exist in close proximity.  The tiger remains the main“stakeholder” in these documents.  Are we ending up protecting a paper tiger?

 Protecting the tiger is symbolic of protecting our ecosystem and the protection has to permeate to each link of the web of life.  We, the people of India, cannot abdicate the responsibility of protecting the web of life by criticizing the Government,the guidelines, the tour operators and what have you.

Protecting the tiger has to happen from theground level up and the forest guide and the forest guard who remain the faceof the Government machinery as far as most tourists are concerned need to beempowered and trained as vital links of the protection chain rather than asemployees at the bottom of the pyramid.

The voice of the guard/officer who walk the forest floor daily should determine policy, customized for each tiger reserve.   In our scramble for jargon which can be upheld legally, the major stake holder ‘tiger’ often takes on a virtual if not mythical colour.   If that is allowed to happen then realities are clouded and policies tend to remain on paper.

The NCTA, Ministry of Environment and Forests has published “Guidelines for Ecotourism in and around Protected Areas”which can be read at the link


Gardening for wildlife

Bees, honeybees and wildbees

 -Dr..Susan Sharma

There are alarm bells ringing in different parts of the world about the disappearance of wild bees.  In India we still have them, and it is important to realize their contribution to our food security.  For many urbanites honey bees are associated with the painful sting and hence, are insects to keep away and be kept away as far as possible.  That they should be kept away from gardens and parks is an attitude we must change.   
Here is an extract from an informative blog on the importance of bees

Bees as Pollinators
The unique relationship between pollinators and flowering plants has been evolving for over 100 million years and there are currently estimated to be around 200,000 different species of animal worldwide acting as pollinators. These include beetles, bats, flies, wasps, birds, butterflies, moths and some mammals; but it is without doubt the humble bee that does the lion’s share of the work. 

From a ‘human-centric’ point of view, bees are responsible for pollinating around a third of the food we eat (this includes meat from animals that graze on bee-pollinated clover and alfalfa) – as well as many of the crops we grow for drinks, medicines and textiles. However, bees are important for more reasons than the fact that they pollinate food for human consumption…
Bees also pollinate over 80% of the world’s wild flowers and, interestingly, whilst great attention is always given to the bee’s role as our main crop pollinator, we would do well to note that they play an equally important role as ‘keystone species’ in the planet’s eco-systems. 
Here’s a very interesting list of ‘who pollinates what’ – List of plants pollinated by bees

The above beehive was formed on the Glory Bower Creeper.  Beehives can be found on Anaar trees, Silk Cotton trees etc. too.
Bees can be an integral part of any garden or Park.  They do not attack unless their beehive is disturbed.   

The above photo is the beehive when it has outlived its utility.
Observing how and when bees collect honey from flowers in the garden is revealing.    Bees seem to keep time based on the rays of sunbeam falling on the beehive and on the flowers  from where they collect honey and in the process help pollinate.  

Bees love the yellow flowers of the methi plant

The Madhu Malti flowers are a treat for the honey bees too.

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