Sandalwood, tiger parts seized

Tirupur: The forest officials seized 40 kg of sandalwood, tiger teeth and claws, horns and antlers of deer and antelope from Mavadappu settlement in the Upper Aliyar area in the district on Friday evening. Five persons, including a trader from Kerala and a Siddha practitioner from Pollachi have been arrested.

District Forest Officer K. Rajkumar told TheHindu that on a tip-off, a special task force team apprehended the trader from Mannarkad in Kerala while he was loading sandalwood in his car. Three tribals who supplied the material were also arrested. A search of the car also resulted in the seizure of the tiger parts.

From THE HINDU

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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

Tamilnadu to set up Special Tiger Protection Force

Fully funded by the Centre and on the basis of regulations framed, using the recommendations of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the Tamil Nadu government will set up Special Tiger Protection Force for Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

The Tamil Nadu government will establish a Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) for Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Minister for Forests N. Selvaraj announced in the Assembly on Thursday.

It would be formed under a scheme fully funded by the Centre and on the basis of regulations framed, using the recommendations of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), he said, replying to a debate on the demands for grants to his department.

A senior official of the State Environment and Forests Department said it was planned to rope in tribals who had knowledge about the Reserve.

As recommended by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, Tamil Nadu government will soon form a Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) for Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Photo: Special Arrangement

STIPULATIONS

According to the NTCA’s document on security plan for tiger reserves, each tiger reserve must have one or more special strike forces deployed on the field.

The deployment should be at locations where the force would be able to reach a given area within a reasonable amount of time to take charge of any crisis.

In most situations, a strike force is best deployed along the periphery in the Code Red Zone. This will be in response to a threat perception. The Special Tiger Protection Force should be preferably used as a strike force and deployed as such. Strike teams should carry out regular mock drills to test their level of preparedness and their response time. Their visibility will also send out a strong psychological message to poachers, the document states.

Mr. Selvaraj also announced the government’s plan to set up a rehabilitation centre at M.R. Palayam in Tiruchi district for elephants, which were orphaned or abandoned by temples and private persons or found in illegal possession of individuals.

Estimated to cost Rs.1.25 crore, it would come up on 19.7 acres.

Of the 737 anti-poaching watchers being employed by the Forest Department on temporary basis, the services of 137 watchers with 10 years’ experience would be regularised.

FLYING SQUADS

Minister for Environment T.P. M. Mohideen Khan said three flying squads, headed by Environmental Engineer (Monitoring), would be formed with the headquarters in Erode, Tirupur and Vellore districts, where dyeing and bleaching units and tanneries were located.

They would act against industrial units, which did not comply with environmental laws.

A vigilance and anti-corruption wing would be set up at the headquarters of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

Mr. Khan, who also handles Youth Welfare and Sports Development, said Rs. 3.5 crore would be required to form a world-class synthetic track in Tirunelveli, for which an additional Rs.2.16 crore had been sanctioned.

Last year, allocation of Rs.1.34 crore was made.

From THE HINDU

WWF-India: Change through education

The ongoing journey of Pardi children joining mainstream society

Background:
Pardis are a nomadic tribe of Central India who are traditional hunters and make a living by killing wild animals. They are thought to be behind many poaching incidents in and around Madhya Pradesh’s Panna Tiger Reserve (TR) in the recent past. WWF-India has supported Panna since 2003 when winter jackets were distributed among the staff. This has continued in the form of small support like wireless handsets, solar panels, remote surveillance systems as well as large support in the from of a tractor, truck and recently, vehicles. Along with this support, rehabilitation of Pardis into mainstream society is critical for the survival of wildlife not only in Madhya Pradesh but also in many other parks across the nation. WWF-India has been closely working with Government agencies to provide education to children of Pardis.

WWF-India is engaging communities around tiger reserves in Central India, through education.© Ameen Ahmed/WWF-India

Engaging Pardhi children:
Two batches of ‘Residential Bridge Courses’ (RBC) are being currently conducted in association with the State Forest Department under the Government supported ‘Sarva Shiksha Abyiyaan’ (‘Education for all’ scheme). By completing a 9-month bridge course, the kids are enrolled into formal education. For example, after completion of the first RBC started in November 2007 by the Forest Department, sixty four boys and forty four girls were admitted to Grade 1, 2 and 3 classes in the tribal schools at Dhangad and Indrapuri colony respectively, in Panna District. This was done on the basis of individual assessment of these students.

Inderbhan Singh Bundela has been working with WWF-India for these kids around Panna TR since August 2008. According to him, “Three batches have been enrolled at the Pardhi School in three years. There are about thirteen girls and fifteen boys in the second course which is currently running. While the first two batches were mainly from Panna District, the third one is from Katni. The children’s age is between eight to fourteen years and in some cases there are even six-year olds”. He says, he is very attached to these kids and their innocence makes one ask if these people really poach wildlife. He further adds “It’s a question of motivation and once they are guided in the right direction, they should be as good a people as any other in the society.”

Concerted efforts are being made to build capacity as well as sensitise the teachers and care takers at the schools for Pardi kids. The knowledge these kids have on their natural surroundings is also being recognized and acknowledged through workshops in Panna TR.

Eyewitness accounts:
Here are stories of two Pardhi children whose lives have changed due to the above interventions.

Bamina: “I like it here in the school’’© Diwakar Sharma/WWF-India

Bamina, Nine years
(She is from the 1st Batch of RBC)
“My name is Bamina. My father’s name is Daryami. I’ve done the nine-month Residential Bridge Course (RBC). I’ve been studying in the school in Kunjwan for the past 2 years. Before I started schooling I used to stay at home though I never liked that. My father and mother used to roam around a lot to provide us food. Even then, we had to go hungry many a time. Sometimes, we even had to stay back in jungles. But that has changed now. I like it here in school. We play a lot of games and also study. I’m learning many new things. My three brothers study at Dhanghad. I’ve three elder sisters who are not in school.”

“I now ask my parents not to hunt. They used to hunt wildlife like tigers, birds and wild boars. Now, my friends and I are educating them about the importance of not hunting wild animals. They now sell Kesar.”

Chiranga, Eleven years, 3rd Batch of RBC
“My name is Chiranga. My father’s name is Parwat Singh. Before I started going to the government school I lived with my family and helped my mother in cooking. I’ve three sisters and three brothers. When I was brought to school for the first time, unlike the other children I never cried. I lived in the school for two months.”

“My father used to shoot wild boar earlier. Members of my family used to hunt tigers and partridges. But now they no longer hunt. My mother now sells ‘manihari’ (traditional cosmetics) like bindis, kumkum and traditional medicines, while my father sells ‘rudraksha’ beads (talismans).”

A story of change for good
According to Dr. Diwakar Sharma, Associate Director of WWF-India’s Species Programme, it took 2 years of continuous encouragement to get Chiranga into school. He says “After her, many more children came forward and joined the school. Once they join the school they do not want to return to their old lifestyle that was filled with hardship and poverty. They are now filled with a desire to learn, succeed and get out of the vicious cycle of poverty that has crippled the lives of their parents. The children joining schools has also led to many of their parents giving up hunting of wild animals thereby aiding wildlife conservation. Success stories like those of Bamina and Chiranga are being used to inspire more Pardi children and families to give education a chance.”

Says, Mita Goswami, Director, Environment Education, WWF-India, “These children are bright and energetic. I am amazed at their aptitude to learn. They are a treasure trove of information on our wildlife. During the nature walk we had with them, we were pleasantly taken aback by the wealth of knowledge they had on nature; from insects to trees and birds to mammals.”

Sangita Saxena, State Director, WWF-India, M.P. & Chhattisgarh State, informs that the project is aimed at developing Pardhi children educationally, socially, culturally and economically, in order to make them forgo their traditional livelihood. She says, “They have an inborn quality to learn fast apart from hunting skills. When they grow up their in-depth knowledge about wild flora and fauna can develop them into excellent nature guides, nature interpreters or researchers. Their skills can also be utilised in law & order services, sports and in the entertainment world as they are also good at dance, folk singing and artisanship. These legally sustainable vocations will convince their parents to lead a settled life.” She adds, “WWF-India is planning to support similar initiatives in Katni, Itarsi and Seoni districts of Madhya Pradesh. A reformed life for children of hunter communities is our Motto.”

Children like these need a chance to change their lives for the better. And WWF-India along with the Madhya Pradesh Government agencies like Forest Department is helping them do it through creative engagement and formal education. By turning the children of Pardis away from hunting, we are giving our nation’s wildlife a good chance to flourish.

From WWF-INDIA

Govt concerned over rising tourist lodges around tiger reserve

NEW DELHI: To curb mushrooming tourist lodges around wildlife habitats posing threat to tiger population, Government is preparing a blue-print for promoting eco-tourism with the involvement of locals, environment minister Jairam Ramesh has said.

“The ministry is concerned with reports of mushrooming tourist lodges around tiger reserves such as in the case of Corbett National Park (UP).

“We are working on detailed guidelines for promoting eco-tourism, ie, tourism that is ecologically sustainable and is in line with the carrying capacity of the particular reserve,” Ramesh said in a statement.

He made it clear that the ministry has no plans to ban tourism in tiger reserves but wants to ensure that revenues from the sector flows back for welfare of the local community.

“Tourism is essential and that the revenues from tourism must flow back directly to the management of each of the tiger reserves so that local communities can benefit.

“The advantages of tourism should be felt by the local communities who should be encouraged to develop a stake in the protection of tiger reserves. This policy of ploughing back is already in place in most reserves and it will be in place in all Project Tiger reserves very soon,” Ramesh said.

He also said states have been advised against unregulated tourism, which is as much a threat to tiger population as poaching and poisoning is.

There are 39 tiger reserve and 663 protected areas across the country.

Four big cats have died in the past two months in Corbett Tiger Reserve due to poaching and poisoning. 16 tigers have been killed so far since January this year while 66 died last year, Forest officials said.

From THE TOI

Kerala: Tiger sighting in new reserve

The sanctuary was declared India’s 38th tiger reserve on Friday

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It was almost as though the news had reached them. Just over a fortnight ago — February 2 to be exact — five tigers were sighted close to the tourism zone in the Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala, which was declared the country’s 38th tiger reserve on Friday.

Forest watcher Srinivasan, who spotted the tigers, managed to capture all five together in a single frame with his small digital camera. The big cats seemed to be moving with a new confidence in the open, by a stream.

Tigers at the Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala.— Photo: N.A. Naseer

It is extremely rare, for even the most diligent watcher, to sight a tiger in the south Indian forests because the vegetation allows the animal to move under cover. Sighting five tigers together in the wild is rarer still because tigers are solitary animals. Each one moves within its own, well-demarcated range, which other tigers do not trespass. They are usually seen together only during the mating season or when the cubs are not grown-up enough to leave the mother.

On his way back to the camp, Mr. Srinivasan met wildlife photographer N.A. Naseer. The photographer had set his tripod high up on a branch of a tree to take photographs of a Great Indian Hornbill in its nest on another tree nearby. On being told about the sighting, Mr. Naseer decided to try his luck. With the watcher’s help, the photographer proceeded to the place where the tigers were seen last.

“We approached the stream carefully, taking care to move in absolute silence. The tigers were still there — all five of them. I cannot describe what it was like,” Mr. Naseer said.

At the very first click of the camera, he said, one tiger, who was lying by the stream began twirling its tail, sensing something. It got up and the rest too seemed to sense the intrusion. Two tigers were in the thickets and not within the camera’s range. The visible ones too slipped into the vegetation and disappeared, he said.

The photographer presented his pictures to Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh when the latter came to declare the sanctuary a tiger reserve on Friday.

“He [Mr. Ramesh] was pleasantly surprised when told that there were five tigers in a group,” said the photographer.

According to the last tiger census using the pug-mark identification technique, the Parambikulam forests (of which, 390.89 sq. km. has now been declared the core area of the new reserve and 252.772 sq. km. its buffer zone) is home to an estimated 15 tigers.

P. Venugopal From THE HINDU