Proposal to end commercial whaling rejected by Commission

A proposal to scrap the 25-year moratorium on commercial whaling has been rejected at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), a delegate told the German Press Agency dpa on Wednesday.

Greenpeace activists place a banner demanding a stop to whaling. File Photo

Practically all 88 IWC nations gathered for the meeting in the Morrocan resort of Agadir were against the lifting of the ban, which is aimed at protecting the species.

“For this session, the compromise proposal is no longer on the table,” German delegate Gert Lindemann told dpa in a telephone interview.

A moratorium has been in place on commercial whaling since 1986, but three countries circumvent it. Japan claims to whale for “scientific” purposes, while Norway and Iceland claim controversial special rights.

A proposal tabled by IWC chairman Cristian Maquieira would have re-legalized commercial whaling in exchange for the three countries cutting down on the number of whales they capture over the coming decade.

The whaling countries regarded the proposal as too restrictive, while environmentalists and a group of heavyweight anti-whaling countries — Australia, France, Germany and Britain — felt it did not provide a sufficient basis for protecting whales.

“All the governments maintained their positions,” Lindemann said.

The proposal could, however, be debated again after a cooling phase of at least one year, he said.

The meeting in Agadir, which will run through Friday, was now expected to focus on lower-level subjects such as whale sanctuaries, whaling by indigenous peoples and financial questions.

From THE HINDU

Sariska to get two more tigers in July

JAIPUR: The roar of the tiger is all set to get louder at Sariska Tiger Reserve with the Centre finally approving relocation of two more tigers from Ranthambore National Park. The relocation of the big cats — one male and a female — is likely to take place on July 4.

According to forest officials, though the tentative dates for the relocation has been fixed for July 4, attempts for the same will begin from July 1 itself.

Sariska, as of now, has two female and a male tiger which were airlifted from Ranthambore between July 2008 and early 2009. However, further relocation attempts were put on hold after a few wildlife experts expressed fears that relocating the big cats without testing the genes to see if they belong to the same family might prove disastrous.

“An expert team comprising Aparajita Dutta from the National Wildlife Conservation Trust and AJT John Singh, former professor of the Wildlife Trust of India, has been camping at Ranthambore since long. In fact, it is in response to a letter written by Dutta on the rising pressure in Ranthambore due to the increasing population of big cats that the Centre has finally agreed to relocate transient tigers from there to Sariska,” said Ram Lal Jat, forest minister.

Officials of the state forest department said that DNA testing will continue alongside with relocation as it takes a lot of time. “The scats have been collected and sent for DNA testing. In this relocation, our prime objective would be to shift the two tigers which have strayed out of Ranthambore to Kota and Kailadevi. But in case we fail to locate them on that day, we will shift other identified tigers,” said an official.

Two tigers — a female, T-37 and a male, T-47 — had strayed away from the Ranthambore reserve earlier this year and have refused to come back so far. Forest officials have been maintaining a watch on them and trying to bring them back to the reserve. .

“We will try to shift distant animals so as not to affect the gene pool but even if the relocated animals are related in any way, we will try to correct it by relocating tigers from some other zone sometime later. There is, however, no question of incompatibility as the tigers from Ranthambore to be relocated are healthy,” he said. So far, nearly 10 tigers have been identified in the Ranthambore reserve for relocation, of which two will be chosen on that day.

Meanwhile, permissions like that for the use of a helicopter for airlifting the tiger have already been taken and researchers from Wildlife Institute of India and state forest department are camping in Sariska, keeping a track of identified tigers.

From TOI

India seizes third shipment of tiger parts on way to China

GUWAHATI, India — Indian customs officers Sunday seized the third shipment of tiger bones and other animal parts, worth 230,000 dollars and destined for use in traditional medicine in China.

Indian customs officers Sunday seized the third shipment of tiger bones and other animal parts that were headed to China

A customs official said the officers found tiger bones, skulls, and 125 kilogrammes of scales from pangolins, rare scaly mammals that are distant relatives of the anteater and a protected species in India.

“The animal products were estimated at about 10.66 million rupees if sold on the international black market,” customs superintendent S. Das told AFP.

Customs officials, acting on a tip-off, had also seized two other shipments at the international airport in the eastern city of Guwahati on Wednesday and Thursday.

In total, the raids netted contraband worth about 660,000 dollars.

On average, poachers kill 30 tigers every year in Indian reserves, with demand driven by China where pelts, claws and bones are prized in traditional medicine.

In 2008, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up a national wildlife crime prevention bureau, drawing experts from the police, environmental agencies and customs in a bid to break up the poaching network.

Tiger hunting is illegal worldwide and the trade in tiger parts is banned under a treaty binding 167 countries, including India.

There are estimated 1,400 tigers living in the wild in India, according to conservation group WWF.

In August of 2009, an Indian delegation in Beijing asked China for full co-operation for controlling cross-border trafficking of tiger parts and to send a clearer message to smugglers, but no official agreement was reached.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved. – Google News

Saving the Indian tiger

Without active intervention by government and society, the majesty and fearful symmetry of this magnificent beast may disappear from Indian forests forever.

THE plight of the Indian tiger has never received the sort of publicity that it is currently receiving any time in recent memory. The telecommunications conglomerate Aircel flashes, on a daily basis, an advertisement on the main television channels in India about the dwindling tiger population.

It has employed India’s cricket captain M S Dhoni as its ambassador, exhorting the Indian public to save the struggling tiger. There are a variety of daily news items on the state of tiger populations, each day focusing on one of India’s 39 tiger reserves, with scoops on recent tiger deaths, corruption and incompetence of forest officials, and interviews with experts and politicians, discussing and analysing solutions to what has become a nightmarish prospect – the extinction of the Indian tiger.

There is no doubt that India’s national animal is in deep trouble. According to a 2008 census, there are only 1,411 tigers left in the wild in India, compared with 3,600 tigers a decade ago and over 40,000 a century ago.

In some national parks such as Panna and Sariska, which once had thriving tiger populations, tigers are now officially extinct. Some experts believe that even the figure of 1,411 is exaggerated and that numbers have now dipped below 1,000. Bearing in mind that India is home to over half of the world’s tiger population, this does not bode well for the species as a whole.

But India has been in this situation before. In its first ever census conducted in 1972, shocking news emerged that the tiger count was only 1,827. This was largely attributed to widespread poaching – India started banning tiger poaching only in 1970.

Save Wildlife

There is no doubt that India’s national animal is in deep trouble. According to a 2008 census, there are only 1,411 tigers left in the wild in India, compared with 3,600 tigers a decade ago and over 40,000 a century ago. Some experts believe that even the figure of 1,411 is exaggerated and that numbers have now dipped below 1,000.

The crisis precipitated a government sponsored project known as “Project Tiger”, which resulted in the creation of a number of tiger reserves dedicated to the protection of the tiger, as well as core buffer areas: contiguous areas which were freed from human activities to allow for tiger corridors. This lead to significant recovery over time of tiger numbers, the apex period being in 1989, when India’s tiger population rose to an impressive 4,334.

Poachers

However, this time, the crisis comes with an even greater bite. The dwindling of tiger numbers has two primary causes. The first primary cause is the old enemy, the poacher. Poachers in India generally belong to impoverished nomadic hunting tribes who traverse the country to hunt tigers and supply tiger parts to traders and smugglers, primarily to satisfy demand in the Chinese market.

A poacher may get up to US$5,000 for a dead tiger, big money in his circumstances. Multiply this 10 times for the trader – the skin of a tiger alone can fetch up to US$35,000 in the Chinese market. Virtually every part of the tiger has commercial value, primarily for the perceived medicinal properties. Some of these claims are manifestly absurd – the brain of a tiger, worth US$2,000, is used to treat laziness, its whiskers, worth US$100 per strand, used to treat toothaches.

The second primary cause is the loss of habitat, resulting in the diminution of prey species and territory for tigers to operate. India produces 20 million new citizens a year, most of this population growth occurring in rural areas, which exist side by side with India’s forests, thereby causing lateral expansion of human habitat and consequently deforestation.

The almost weekly reports in the Indian media of human-tiger conflict in rural areas is testimony to this growing problem, as tigers are forced to move closer to humans in search of territory and food. This invariably has tragic consequences as villagers often kill tigers out of self-defence or to protect their livestock.

In addition, the Indian industry’s drive to acquire real estate and natural resources, which fuel India’s spectacular economic growth, also puts pressure on tiger habitat. Recently, the Indian prime minister personally intervened on this issue by writing to the state government of Maharashtra to request that crucial buffer areas be notified around the Tadoba Reserve to protect a tiger corridor from intrusion by India’s coal mining industry.

Does this mark the end of the Indian tiger? There is reason to be optimistic about its future, in view of the currently huge and ever-growing awareness among the Indian public of the need for action to save its beloved national animal.

But reforms still have to take place. One fundamental tenet, mirroring the African approach, is to ensure that there is economic value placed on the tiger’s survival. Some experts estimate that an adult tiger can rake in over US$100 million worth of eco-tourism revenue in its lifetime.

Eco-tourism also supports the livelihoods of local communities who then in turn have a stake in the tiger’s survival. In this regard, it is difficult to agree with the recent decision by India’s National Tiger Authority to phase out tourism in its tiger reserves. Apart from disregarding the obvious economic value, this decision also overlooks the importance of eco-tourism in curtailing poaching, with each vehicle operating as a sort of security unit against such activity.

Other reforms should necessarily include proper forest management and involvement of local communities in anti-poaching activities, use of intelligence and technology to track poachers and monitor tiger populations and protection of forests and buffer areas against urban development.

In terms of curbing the trade in tiger parts, some progress has been made through India’s efforts on the diplomatic front, resulting in the recent directive by the Chinese State Forestry Administration to step up action against illegal trade in tiger parts and products.

The fate of the Indian tiger is in the balance. Without active intervention by government and society to save it, we may never see the majesty and fearful symmetry of this magnificent beast in the Indian forests again.

By Prakash Pillai – From Business Times

India’s environmental crusader

Five years ago, the Valley of Flowers National Park in India was in a shambles after sustained environmental abuse. Jyotsna Sitling, India’s first female tribal forester, arrived as director in 2002 with the aim of regenerating the area. Three years later the park’s ecosystem was flourishing once again and the site was granted World Heritage Status from UNESCO. Jyotsna, winner of the 2007 Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar prize, India’s highest environmental honour, explains how she did it

Jyotsna Sitling receiving the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar prize. Photograph: supplied by Neeta Lal

I was born into the ‘Lepcha’ tribal community of Kalimpong in West Bengal, a region bordering Tibet. My village Chibbo Busty, though a mere blip on India‘s vast geographic radar, was stunningly picturesque. Rugged ochre and dun-colored hills, an emerald green forest cover and children with beatific faces made it an idyllic place. I remember walking through the village’s misty woods with my parents, extremely curious about the region’s flora and fauna. “What is that tree called?”, “And that flower?”, “Where does mountain snow disappear?” “How do birds feed their young?” I brimmed with queries about nature.

After school, I enrolled at the Darjeeling Government College with botany as my major subject. Nobody raised an eyebrow when I chose forestry as a vocation. As India’s first woman tribal forester, I felt proud to join the Indian Forest Service (IFS) in 1987. My first assignment – as conservator of forests in India’s most troubled state (Jammu and Kashmir) – was a challenging one. There are still just a handful of female foresters in the Indian Forest Service, so in my career’s initial stages I had to work doubly hard to establish my credibility.

I was posted in Uttaranchal as the director of Nanda Devi National Park (NDNP) in 2002. This beautiful park was in a shambles due to rampant environmental abuse. Ensconced within the upper Himalayan ridges at 6,675 metres, the entire area had a cachet of conservation concerns. A shame really, considering the splendid Valley of Flowers National Park (VFNP) in Uttaranchal is one of the world’s most scenic alpine valleys, breeding exquisite floral and avian diversity: 520 species of flowering plants and rare avian breeds like the Scaly-bellied Woodpecker, Great Barbett, Eurasian Eagle Owl, Spotted Dove and the Blue Magpie.

Soon after taking over, I launched a vigorous movement to save the park from further degradation. We first planned to rid it of mountain-high piles of plastic and non-biodegradable waste strewn by pilgrims over three decades of visiting the Sikh religious site of Hemkund Sahib each year. To achieve this, a community-based waste management program involving the local populace was fleshed out. The highly irresponsible environmental behavior of the pilgrim traffic had totally wrecked the beautiful surroundings, resulting in accumulation of tons of putrescent garbage (plastic bags, bottles, rain coats, sundry packets) and non-degradable waste.

The 19km trek route was impacted further by some 400-odd shops illegally installed by locals. Their plastic waste had literally filled the whole area. The region’s verdant slopes, once a green canvas punctuated with sweet-smelling flowers, were transformed into junkyards through a mindless act of man. The fragile eco-system of the entire valley was under duress due to this pilgrim traffic.

Of course it was tough to motivate the local people for the unglamorous task of cleaning up the area, but we just plunged headlong into it. I made the Park staff understand the social and livelihood dynamics of the community which could be decisive in preserving it. This was followed by giving them focused training and mentoring them regularly to equip them professionally to handle community-initiated conservation processes. Being a woman, the male staff saw me as a role model to initiate such processes in the garbage-ridden VFNP.

For starters, we cobbled an eco-development committee (EDC) comprising the local people, especially women and hired garbage collectors who worked on a monthly salary of 1,000 rupees (about GBP11) with an additional commission of 5 rupees per garbage bag. After working tirelessly for 14 months, my team collected a whopping 44 tons of garbage in 14,000 gunny bags. The collected garbage matched the surrounding towering peaks in height.

This garbage was transported on horseback to New Delhi for recycling. The heaps also included tons of mule dung because about 500 mules go up and down this religious stretch from May to October each year – the main five pilgrimage months. Despite the garbage’s volume, we didn’t take any eco-unfriendly short cuts like burning, burying or draining off of refuse.

Cleaning up the area was only part of the problem. A greater challenge lay in convincing the resident business population of about 76 families to demolish their 400 shacks and morph them into 76 shops; that is, one shop per family. This, I argued, would help in the management of the ecologically sensitive area. The entrepreneurs, adamant at first, finally relented and demolished their shacks to build well-equipped shops with proper infrastructure.

We struck upon a “participatory approach” for protecting biodiversity in the sensitive areas. The locals were educated about the benefits of making conservation a socially and economically self-alleviating experience. We worked in synergy with the local populace to hammer out economically viable and sustainable solutions to conservation versus development conflicts. The idea was to integrate livelihood and equity concerns in conservation practices for a sustainable, long-term solution.

Community training was imparted to harness local resources and generate eco-tourism activities. Growing and preserving of medicinal plants, exotic condiments and traditional crops were listed as a priority. This stimulated the avenues connected with the hill economy which helped prevent poaching and illegal removal of herbs from nearby forests. Communities were also encouraged to document and preserve their culture and folklore. Local youth were taught and became a skilled human resource on local bio-diversity, folklore and culture promotion.

The local populace were trained and linked with regulated tourism business opportunities to become beneficiaries and custodians of the NDNP. Years of hard labor started to bear fruit when the region’s ecosystem showed signs of regeneration. Our forest department received a state award and nominated the VFNP to the UN’s World Heritage list in 2002 by submitting a proposal to the World Heritage Centre (WHC). The UN evaluation team visited the VFNP and NDNP in September 2004 to assess its conservation status, its management strategy and the community interface in the conservation of the two parks.

On July 14, 2005, I got that historic call from UNESCO informing us about VFNP being granted World Heritage Status. It was an exhilarating moment. I still get goose flesh thinking about that call, which symbolised our triumph against such massive odds. Apart from bestowing a prestigious global honor, the WHS status has had other positive benefits as well – like attracting a lot more international tourists and global conservation funds. Our unique experiment has proved that there’s nothing that can’t be achieved if people choose to work together, even if the task is of ‘Himalayan’ proportions. Nanda Devi, the venerable Goddess of Uttaranchal, has every reason to smile.

• Jyotsna Sitling was speaking to India-based freelance journalist Neeta Lal. – From Guardian UK

Munia birds rescued

Munia Bird

Coimbatore: Following a tip off from a nature enthusiast, Forest officials on Monday rescued four Munia birds (small finchlike Asian birds) from a person and fined him for the offence.

The team deputed by Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore Circle, R.Kannan and District Forest Officer, I. Anwardeen and led by Forester S.M. Natarajan apprehended P. Murugesan (35) of Dharmapuri, currently working in Tirupur, after he was found in possession of four birds belonging to Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act.

Preliminary enquiries revealed that a house owner in his area in Tirupur gave the birds to Murugesan asking him to either free them or sell them. Murugesan was trying his luck to make some money by selling them.

The birds were found in iron cages.

Based on his information, Forest officials have asked the officials in Tirupur to ascertain the source of these birds from the house owner to track down the primary seller of Munia birds. Murugesan was fined Rs. 1,000 for the offence.

From THE HINDU

Elephant-proof trench work along NMR stopped

Wildlife enthusiasts fear fragmentation of elephant corridor

Alternative measures to combat elephant intrusion suggested

Coimbatore: The Southern Railway authorities have called off their efforts to dig an elephant-proof trench along the Nilgiris Mountain Railway (NMR) from Kallar.

Following the killing of railway line maintenance staff recently and incidents of wild elephant herd chasing line maintenance personnel on two or three occasions, the authorities commenced the trench digging work.

This drew objection from wildlife enthusiasts stating that elephant-proof trenches would result in the fragmentation of the elephant corridor, preventing migration or movement of elephants from Coimbatore towards Sathyamangalam, Karnataka and other parts of Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve.

They pointed out that the fragmentation of the corridor and obstructions to the elephants’ movement would lead to their straying into human habitations.

The Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore Circle , R. Kannan and District Forest Officer, I. Anwardeen had a meeting with officials from Southern Railway.

It is learnt that at the meeting, alternative measures to combat the elephant intrusion were suggested.

It was also suggested that five watch towers could be erected along the NMR line to monitor the movement of herds, besides utilising the services of tribals to help the railway line staff in their maintenance work.

Southern Railway recently stopped the trench work and closed the trenches dug up in the first few days.

From THE HINDU