Goa: Mhadei and Netravali get separate ranges

PANAJI: Eleven years after Mhadei and Netravali wildlife sanctuaries were notified, the state government on Wednesday created separate ranges for the two sanctuaries which according to the additional principle chief conservator of forests Dr Shashi Kumar will help in “intensive management” of the areas.

Announcing the creation of new ranges, the government through a notification signed by under secretary (Forests) Maria J R Pires, said that Netravali wildlife sanctuary range will have its headquarters at Netravali and Mahadei’s headquarters will be located at Valpoi. The jurisdiction of Netravali wildlife sanctuary and range has been transferred from deputy conservator of forest, South Goa, to deputy conservator of forests, wildlife sanctuary & Ecotourism, South Goa.

By another notification, the government has bifurcated the existing wildlife and eco-tourism divisions into two. Accordingly, three wildlife sanctuaries – Mahadei, Bhagwan Mahaveer and Bondla besides Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary (Chorao) and Bhagwan Mahavi national park will come under wildlife and eco-tourism (North) division with headquarters in Panaji. The other division – wildlife and eco-tourism (South) division will consist of two wildlife sanctuaries -Netravali and Cotigao. According to the notification, the bifurcation is done mainly for better administration and management. Earlier this month, TOI had reported plans of additional principle chief conservator of forests to have separate ranges.

Agreeing that it’s been 11 years since then governor J FR Jacob notified Mahadei and Netravali as wildlife sanctuaries, Dr Kumar said that the forest department had been on the job for quite a long time. Hitherto, Mahadei and Netravali were managed by territorial range officers. Sources in the know said that the separate ranges should have been created long ago.

Succcessive governments tried to denotify the wildlife sanctuaries partly or fully. The “grievances” of the villagers there had been highlighted by MLAs for long with even promises made that they would take up the matter with the Centre.Perhaps after the supreme court ruling that, once notified, no wildlife sancturay would be denotified, the political class gave up their demand for denotification. tnn

From TOI

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Human-animal conflict

Risky:The constant presence of a herd of elephants along the Coonoor-Mettupalayam National Highway has become a serious source of concern to motorists and forest officials.

From THE HINDU

The big city in the jungle

The tourism industry in India has grown rapidly, especially during the past decade. It now contributes nearly nine per cent of the GDP and more than 6 per cent of total employment can be attributed to tourism, with eco-tourism as the fastest growing sector. Although a fairly new concept, it is hardly surprising that India, which boasts incredible natural biodiversity, is looking to expand in this sector. However, uncontrolled expansion can lead to extinction of the very world we are looking to promote.

Traditionally, eco-tourism is viewed as responsible, ‘friendly’ travel to natural areas that causes minimal damage to the environment, while sustaining and promoting the well-being of the local people and wildlife. This is an ideal that is often far removed from reality.

For eco-tourism to succeed, the government and organisations involved must strive to enhance the positive effects that eco-friendly tourism can have upon wildlife, while minimising the drawbacks that are inevitable if the local people and the environment are not at the forefront of the initiative. To some extent, the tiger census will provide a measure of how far eco-tourism has actually progressed.

There is no doubt that eco-tourism can make a difference to wildlife. One of the most noted examples is the Bandhavagarh National Park, a highly developed eco-tourism forest, which boasts a staggeringly high density of tigers — 1 in 5 sq km — in its tourism zone. This is not a lone example. Nearly every park in India popular with tourists has a thriving wildlife population. One reason that tourism has such an immediate impact is its negative effect on poaching. There is increased awareness, from lodge owners, conservationists and forest officials to preserve their livelihoods, so their vigilance against poachers, and other such local conservation deterrents increases.

On the other hand, in national parks without tourists, there are also few animals, and of course, no tourist will visit a national park that is devoid of its animals. So what is the problem? Wildlife numbers are seemingly increasing, poaching is down and it should follow that eco-tourists are happy. For the moment this is perhaps true, but in the long-term, this is more doubtful.

As eco-tourism expands, the demands on ‘eco-lodges’ increases and an increasing number of resorts are built, at the expense of the wilderness and the natural resources that are supposedly at the heart of eco-tourism. Such expansion also introduces ‘big city’ competition, followed by an inevitable decline in the ‘eco-friendliness’ of the resorts.

Kalyan Varma, a renowned wildlife photographer and naturalist suggests, “There is nothing ‘eco’ about many resorts. They pollute, pull out of ground water and sometimes even use round-the-clock generators.” Contrary to the nature of eco-tourism, resorts are an introduction of urbanisation to the wilderness.

The expansion of such resorts increases the strain on the already haphazard management of some parks. For instance, a Junior Tiger Task Force report found that there were up to 18 vacant forest guard posts. At one point in 2008, 3 of 5 posts for senior officials were vacant in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. Eco-tourism, without definitive management will not be ‘friendly’ to anyone in the near future. Another problem is that many parks do not have regulatory or standardised guidelines for crowds. During peak seasons, they are invariably overflowing with tourists, transforming the park into a circus melee.

Such numbers are unmanageable, and safaris become akin to a race, where the Bengal Tigers — supposedly one of the great treasures and symbols of India — surrounded by masses of jeeps, placing stress on the animal. Some parks may become less a national park and more a drive-through zoo. Is this the compromise that must be made to keep the tiger alive?

One of the main aims of eco-tourism is to support the local economy. Surely, with eco-tourism growing rapidly, this is the least of our worries? Unfortunately, all the money a national park earns from eco-tourism is redirected to a central India trust fund. Similarly, much of the employment is directed away from local communities. In many cases, even if a resort employs locals, it is mostly for unskilled labour like cleaning and is not truly empowering. In the true eco-resorts, there are dedicated training programmes and a determination to train locals for employment.

When I went to Kabini Jungle Lodges last summer, it was heartening to see the local community employed in its daily functioning — a fine example of eco-tourism. The locals are trained in a range of skills from cooking to working as naturalists. Indeed, some villagers may be familiar with the forests and have an unparalleled knowledge of the wildlife and its surroundings.

Ultimately, it is the guide on a safari that can boost a tourist’s trip. Local people have the potential to be an invaluable knowledge source. The eco-tourism industry should design and fund a programme that will be fully empowering to the local population, tourists and eco-tourism as a whole.

A rapidly growing field in the tourism sector, careful management and guidance of its expansion is necessary for eco-tourism’s long-term success. As it stands, the traditional aim of eco-tourism exists only as an ideal. Fortunately, solutions do exist. International certification programmes similar to those introduced in South America by the Rainforest Alliance could be implemented in the short-term to allow tourists to make more informed choices before choosing a resort.

This would hand over some responsibility to the tourists themselves and hopefully relay the importance of this issue back to the industry. But eco-tourism in India can only truly survive if regulations and guidelines encompass more sustainable, long-term solutions, rather than focusing on GDP figures that place high value on the number of resorts and its tourists. Quality of resorts, not numbers is what matters.

— The writer is a medical student based in Britain.

rohitsrini89@gmail.com – Express Buzz

Chennai: Marginal fall in black buck population

CHENNAI: There has been a marginal decrease in the population of black buck and spotted deer at the Guindy National Park (GNP) and Raj Bhavan campus.

This was the outcome of the census conducted by the Wildlife wing of the State Forest Department at the two places on Sunday.

Last census

Population of the spotted deer was estimated to be around 1,255 and that of black buck 371. During the last census in February last year their numbers were estimated to be 1,280 and 382 respectively, according to Wildlife authorities.

The marginal decrease was due to the presence of predators inside the GNP area, they said. A senior officer said in 2003 about half a dozen jackals from the Children’s Park were released into the GNP and their population had reached more than a dozen two years ago.

The jackals, which used to mainly feed on the wild hare and rats, could now be preying on the fawns of spotted deer and black bucks due to which their population has decreased marginally, the officer said.

Apart from ungulates the participants in the census also recorded the sighting of good number of star tortoises, cobra, booted-eagle, palm civet cat and a pangolin during the census.

Around 100 volunteers, including students and professors from various colleges, participated in the programme.

Volunteers

The Wildlife authorities formed 11 teams with nine volunteers each in a team, who walked along 11 transect lines drawn inside the GNP area to enumerate the wildlife population, the authorities added.

From THE HINDU

Call for saving the tiger raised as China gets into year of the tiger

BEIJING: Wildlife conservationists have stepped up pressures on the Chinese government to do more to protect the tiger as the country went about celebrating the advent of the year of the tiger on Sunday.

Wang Weisheng, director of the wildlife management division of China’s State Forestry Administration, recently said there are 50 wild tigers – in four subspecies in the country. SFA believes there are 20 Siberian tigers, 10 to 20 Bengal tigers and 10 Indochinese tigers in the country.

Conservationists also questioned the government’s policy that allows tigers to be bred in special farms. It is impossible to distinguish between the bones of farm bred tigers and those poached from forests once they arrive in the market, they pointed out.

China allows breeding of tigers in specially designed farms. There have been sporadic reports of tiger meat being sold in certain parts of the country. Tiger bones are still widely sold in China because many believe they contain special medicinal properties and are ready to pay an extremely high sum for it.

South China tigers are believed to be extinct in the wild after the species has not been sighted for more than 25 years, according to WWF.

It is believed there were 4,000 South China tigers 1950s and 200 Siberian tigers in the 1960s.

Some experts have questioned the government’s method of counting saying the number of tigers living in the wild could be a lot less in China. There is an over reliance on pugmarks and other methods of counting at a time when hardly any tiger is being sighted, they say.

“If urgent and proper measures are not taken, there is a risk that wild tigers will no longer be found on Chinese territory,” Zhu Chunquan, conservation director of biodiversity of WWF China Program Office, told the local media recently.

The loss of habitats and rampant poaching of tigers and their prey – mostly for illegal trade of traditional Chinese medicine – have contributed to the drastic decline of the wild tiger population in the country, Zhu said.

The number of captive South China tigers (Panthera tigris amoyenesis) living in special farms have risen to 92 in 2009 from 60 in 2007. But all of them are offsprings of six wild South China tigers, two male and four females, which were caught more than 40 years ago.

All that is available is extensive inbreeding that will lead to genetic freaks and poor physical makeup, according to Deng Xuejian, a professor with the Department of Biology of Hunan Normal University, based in Hunan Province.

Some experts like Xie Yan, director of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) China Program, believe there is hope for growth of Siberian tigers in China because they are part of the big family of about 500 in Russia.

From TOI

Tamilnadu: Wild elephant population in State witnesses steady growth

Elephant Task Force to be formed on the lines of Tiger Task Force

CHENNAI: There is a steady growth in population of wild elephants in the State. This was revealed at a recent meeting of the steering committee of Project Elephant of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, in New Delhi.

The population of wild elephants in Tamil Nadu was 2,307 in 1993, which touched 2,971 in 1997 and 3,052 in 2002.

On the raise: Herd of wild elephants seen at Hanumanthapuram village near Uthanapalli in Krishnagiri district last December.

Two years ago, the population was estimated to be 3,867. In Kerala and Karnataka their population is on the decline. Block and dung counting methods were adopted to arrive at the numbers, said a source in the Ministry.

Two important decisions were taken at the meeting – form an Elephant Task Force on the lines of Tiger Task Force; set up a rescue and rehabilitation centre for straying elephants, similar to the one functioning near the Vandalur zoo for tigers and lions rescued from circuses.

The committee expressed concern over the upkeep and maintenance of elephants in captivity. The Ministry had issued guidelines for care and management of elephants in captivity nearly seven years ago. It reiterated that State governments should conduct a survey and report the exact number of captive elephants in temples and other establishments. States should ensure that no illegal acquisition of pachyderms could be made.

Another complaint was on elephants being employed for begging in urban areas. In an attempt to end to this, the Maharashtra government had issued orders banning the entry of elephants within the corporation limits.

The Union Ministry requested other States to issue similar orders.

The Ministry requested State Governments not to issue any fresh ownership certificate for calves of captive elephants without DNA testing to prevent poaching.

Suggestions made

S. Vincent, Member, steering committee, Project Elephant, from Tamil Nadu, who attended the meeting, said he made a few suggestions to the Ministry, including construction of underpasses/flyovers to facilitate free movement of pachyderms across railway track/national highways; erecting bio-fences using chilly powder and other natural products to keep elephants away instead of electric fencing; identifying high risk zones of crop damage and man-animal conflict using GPRS facility; forming a conflict management committee with local communities, NGOs and volunteers; and streamlining the procedure for paying compensation to farmers for winning over local support.

P. Oppili From THE HINDU

Enumeration of wild animals to be held

DINDIGUL: Enumeration of wild animals including tigers in forests under Dindigul forest division will be conducted between February 6 and 13.

Non-government organisations, students in schools and colleges and individual volunteers may take part in the survey.

Those interested can contact the District Forest Officer, District Forest Office, Collectorate in person or through telephone number 0451-2460470, according to a release from District Forest Office here on Monday.

From THE HINDU