Apoorva Joshi

PhD student - Information and Media; Environmental Science and Policy @Michigan State University

Independent journalist -

Environment, Science, International

The Tigers and The Times of India

I honestly think that at this time, when our Tiger numbers are even lower than they were when Project Tiger was launched in 1973, we REALLY need "in your face facts". Without them, we just don't seem to grasp the gravity of the situation. In the top most story, the author has rightly said on behalf of the Tigress - The humans are now suddenly protecting us because, ultimately, it's not us they care about, it's THEMSELVES.
We're such a fuckin' selfish bloody species!!! We can't even conserve without a selfish attitude. Though, again, some would say that depends on what you would define as selfish.. but this really IS incomprehensible. For me, my motive is clear but those who do it for a selfish reason of protecting themselves in the long run, at least do THAT properly!!
Human beings really DO have very strange minds - one minute we're poaching animals all over the place, the next minute, we're making laws to protect them.. I'm not complaining. In a way, it's good. But why do we do things? Just coz some random person, or law states that we should? Or do we really even UNDERSTAND what we're doing and the consequences of our actions (good and bad)?!

The fact that, (for whatever reason), the media is giving attention to such issues, is VERY important in today's times.. because without that, half the country wouldn't know what's happening. It's high time now. People, please ACT! Enough "meetings, discussions, time-offs..etc.." Enough wastage of time!

The following are copy-pasted stories from Page 17 of The Times of India - 9th August, 2009 (and however long they might be, I think every possible person should read them and understand them because you can afford to spend 10 less minutes in the bathtub, 5 less minutes in front of your mirror.. for now. Because some day, that's all you will be able to look at..what with the wildlife gone and all...) :


EXCLUSIVE SHORT STORY

The wise tigress and a silly fool with a gun

BULBUL SHARMA



They call me Rani which I think is a silly name since I have no royal blood in me but I cannot do anything about it. Men have their own odd ways and ever since they came to live on earth with us we have had to go along with them to survive. Sometimes we lash out, like my old uncle Sher Khan who turned maneater in his old age. His teeth always gave him trouble after that and his skin began to smell really awful. But he was a rare case. For thousands of years we have hunted our four- legged prey in the grassy meadows and never looked at man as our next meal.
He was frightened of us even when he lived in a cave and hunted with sharp-edged stones. They say he drew pictures of my ancestors on his cave walls so that he could trap their
spir
its to enable him to hunt them easily in real life. He loved our skin even then and wore our teeth around his neck. Silly fool.
Later when he grew a little wiser, he started worshipping us and wrote many songs about our great strength and cunning. He stamped our heads on seals and even carved our figures in clay. Later when he built temples he made us stand like guards at the gate and then we all felt so proud when the Goddess
Durga chose one of us as her ‘vahan’. Even to this day, you can see her fierce and beautiful form riding a tiger as she slays the buffalo-demon. Though sometimes I see our cousin the Lion with her and then I feel quite upset. We have always been the rulers of the forest and every animal fears us, except the elephant.
Men have written many clever stories about our valour in the Jataka and
Panchatantra tales though some of them mock us and make the tiny mouse braver than the mighty tiger. I never let that bother me and always teach my cubs that men have a weird sense of humour and fun. They are the only people on this earth that kill other animals not for food but for their amusement.
At first we hunted quite openly since man was not running on wheels and hunting with a gun but later we had to learn to stay hidden in the shadows of the tall grass. Our fur with its cleverly designed black
un
even stripes merged in the landscape and we could not be seen even when man came quite close to us. We could smell him but had to stay very still because he now had many clever gadgets with which he could track us down and shoot us. Why he hates us so much I have never understood.
It was not always so. There was a great ruler called Asoka many centuries ago and he wrote on stone that we should not be harmed. People obeyed his rules and left us

alone to live happily in our forests. The forests those days were rich and dense, filled with food for not only us but every other living creature. The tribal people who lived here sang many wonderful songs about us and painted our forms on their mud huts.
“Men were born innocent but got more and more clever for their own good,” my great-great grand mother used to say every time she saw one of our clan shot dead. She remembered her grandfather being hunted by an emperor who came on an elephant all decked up with golden headgear and a huge velvet umbrella. There were a hundred men with him carrying spears and what a great noise they made with their bu
gles and drums. They tied a poor deer to a tree and waited. My ancestor was warned not to go near the deer but he was hungry and could not resist. They said that he was not the only one they killed that day. The emperor’s elephants carried home more than a hundred dead tigers as they marched through the forest. The palace floor was soon lined with my ancestors’ skins. Later they made many beautiful paintings of this great hunt; though they say my late ancestor looks very handsome as he fought to death, I do not want to see these paintings.
When my cubs ask me why do men like our skin so much I really have no answer. I would never drape a dead man’s hide in my den. It would give me nightmares.
Man continued to kill us but now he did not paint our handsome figures. He just came in large groups and shot us all down from a ‘
machan’. His skin was white in colour and he wore a strange-looking hat. Now for the first time even the female of the species began to shoot us and then posed for a photograph with her feet on our dead body. Did she not have cubs of her own?
Gradually the songs about us became less and less as we grew fewer in number. I think we would have all died out like our cousin the Cheetah who once hunted not very far from us. But then a miracle happened. Man decided we should live. He now
considered us important not only for the forest but his own survival.
Hah! That is a poor joke. But I told you man has a strange mind. Imagine hunting us down for hundreds of years and then suddenly turning around and saying. “We must stop all this killing. Not good. Not good for us at all.” But do not think for a moment I am complaining. This is, indeed, a miracle. The gods of the forest have smiled on us once again after so many centuries. The paintings on caves, the songs , the rules written on stone to protect us may have all vanished but now we have some sort of protection once again. Man has made rules that we should not be hunted. It does not work all the time since man’s greed for our skin and bones has not changed but I do believe my cubs have a fair chance to live.
I lie here in the forest waiting for the men to shoot me. No, they are not going to kill me. They just want to take a photograph of me and my cubs. I do not like them coming too near my cubs and give a low growl, baring my teeth. How it thrills them! I told you they had a weird sense of fun. So I stretch, give them a big yawn, showing all my teeth ,even the broken one at the back, and send them home happy.
Bulbul Sharma is an artist, author and teaches children with special needs

Sher Khan from Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’ surveys his kingdom

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TAKE A GOOD LOOK...

THIS MAY BE THE LAST TIME YOU SEE A TIGER

Neelam Raaj | TNN



Tiger country is losing its stripes, surely, and not slowly enough. From an estimated 40,000 big cats in India a century ago, the number may be down to just 1,300 and falling. Soon, Kipling’s Jungle Book may be all that we have of Sher Khan. The next time, President Bill Clinton comes visiting, there may be no ‘Bamboo Ram’ or his cubs to spot. The mighty Royal Bengal Tiger is in trouble. The latest blow was the Panna reserve’s admission last month that it has lost all of its 24 tigers. It was a repeat of the 2005 Sariska story, though there were warning signs this time round.
The tiger tragedy is being played out everywhere.
Namdapha (Arunachal Pradesh) had 12 tigers in 2006 but has not had a single sighting this year. Ditto Buxa (West Bengal), which also had 12 tigers. Dampa (Mizoram) may have only two tigers left. Indravati in Chhattisgarh has been taken over by Maoist rebels. The situation is bad in Palamau in Jharkhand and Simplipal in Orissa. In MP’s Kanha reserve, one of the best tiger habitats, there have been six unexplained tiger deaths since November 2008.
The conservation story is back to square one — or rather the 1970s, when Project Tiger was launched and the numbers stood at 1,827. Forty years and millions of rupees later, numbers rose, only to drop to an all-time low. The last tiger census in 2006 put numbers at 1,411. Since then, nearly a 100 have died. What’s killing the Indian tiger?
HUNTING THE HUNTER
Tiger numbers may be falling but not the price on its head. In the international market, a tiger pelt goes for $10,000, a bowl of tiger penis soup (said to improve sexual prowess) for $320 and a single claw for $20.

It’s estimated that a single specimen — ground down and separated into various medicines — earns roughly $50,000. China’s rising affluence has meant greater demand for tiger parts. “It’s the traditional Chinese medicine market that's driving demand,” says Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India. For poachers, who use Nepal as a transit route to China, the big cat is big business.
SQUEEZED FOR SPACE
In the name of development, forests are being cleared to build roads and human encroachment is eroding buffer zones, reducing the animals’ habitat and food supply. “Tiger reserves take up just 2% of India’s landmass. All we need to do is make is those 35,000 sq km inviolate,” says P K Sen, founder-director of Project Tiger. Easier said than done. In 2006, a new law granted tribals legal right to forest land. Thousands of people flooded into the forests, elbowing out wildlife. But the government also declared that the Act did not mean ‘Critical Tiger Habitats’. Rs 50 crore was also set aside for a Tiger Protection Force.
TOOTHLESS FORCE
The budget for tiger protection has gone up but the green army tasked with saving the big cat has neither the equipment nor the training for the job. Forest guards, wielding lathis or .315 rifles have to take on poachers armed with automatics.
“There are huge vacancies in their ranks and most of them are old since there has been no recruitment for 20 years,” says Ashok Kumar of the Wildlife Trust of India. Range officers get no training in wildlife enforcement. “They are not wellversed in legal procedures and 90% of the cases against poachers fail to stand up in court,” says Kumar.
TOO MANY CENTRES OF POWER
Better co-ordination between the Centre and states could save many a tiger: that’s the consensus among conservationists. “Funds are required but what is even more urgently needed is the two working in tandem,” says Wright. She cites Panna as an example. The Madhya Pradesh authorities ignored warnings by a Central team.
TOURIST TRAP
Today, tigers are prisoners of human intruders. At night, they are wary of poachers. By day, there are camera-clicking tourists. “Irresponsible tourism can pose a big problem for the tiger,” says Sen. But the good news is that the National Tiger Conservation Authority has now barred visitors from breeding areas.
SO IS IT TOO LATE?
“Bagh Bachao, Jungle Bachao, Bharat Bachao” is the rallying cry of tiger NGOs. Some experts worry that the small population makes the future of the tiger scientifically unviable, others are optimistic. Until now, the big cat has always been extraordinarily adaptable and resilient. “All a tiger needs,” says Kumar, “is a little bit of cover, some water and some prey.”

End of the tale?
37 is the number of sanctuaries for tigers in India 7 reserves are on alert as there’s no information available on the number of tigers they have — or if there are any at all. 0 is the number of tigers in Panna. Last month, officials admitted that the reserve had lost all its 24 tigers 35 tigers disappeared from Sariska in 2005. It became the first reserve to lose all its tigers to poaching 50
is the average age of forest staff as there has been
hardly any recruitment in the last 10 years 10-20,000
rupees is what a poacher makes for a killing though tiger parts sell for thousands of dollars in international market
1,300 AND GOING DOWN * 2006 census put number at 1,411 but since then more have died.

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South gives the big cat a fighting chance

B Aravind Kumar | TNN



There’s a part of India where the tiger may still have a fighting chance: the Western Ghats. The big cat roams free here and in goodly numbers, from the southern tip right up to Maharashtra. Eight tiger reserves — in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala — have been rated ‘good’ to ‘satisfactory’ by the Centre’s 2009 preliminary status report on the tiger. Experts say this is because of good governance, constant surveillance and monitoring, pro-active local tribes, a zealous scientific community, habitat quality and contiguity and an excellent ‘prey base’, which means plentiful supplies of deer.
In Mudumalai, for instance, tiger numbers are believed nearly to have doubled in recent times. Field director Rajiv K Srivastava says anti-poaching watchers patrol the deep deciduous forests round-the-clock. “The wireless network helps rush them to vulnerable areas when they receive information about movement of suspected poachers,’’ he adds. Each watcher, mostly from a local tribe, covers 15-20 km daily.
The tiger has also returned to Sathyamangalam sanctuary — erstwhile Veerappan country — after two decades. Some say this is because the guns have fallen silent, along with rising tiger numbers in adjoining Mudumalai and Bandipur,
which sends the animals looking for more area to roam. Scientists working in the field spotted two tigresses with five cubs at two different locations last year. Forest officers estimate that there are at least 10 tigers in the division.
The 2008 status report on tigers by the National Tiger Conservation Authority and Wildlife Institute of India estimates tiger numbers in the Western Ghats of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala at 402, with a lower limit of 336 and upper limit of 487. The Bandipur and Nagarhole tiger reserves are almost full. “Highquality research on tigers and their prey base has resulted in a pool of scientific data which facilitates reliable monitoring,’’ says Ravi Chellam, country director, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), India programme. WCS staff range across 22,000 sq km of forest in Karnataka, tracking tigers to gather data from the field. Every quarter, the WCS shares data with the Karnataka forest department. “Strict protection of the forests by using science is the hallmark of tiger conservation in Karnataka,’’ says Chellam.
Recently, WCS scientists led by Ullas Karanth used high-tech fecal sampling to tally and assess numbers. Tiger scat is thought to provide a unique DNA signature allowing researchers to accurately identify individual animals.
Another encouraging sign are tiger sightings in non-contiguous areas. This indicates the presence of a “meta-population”, ie tigers who move from one reserve to another, thereby improving the gene pool. This gives conservationists reason to hope that another Sariska is
not waiting to happen in the south.
In the Eastern Ghats, the Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve in Andhra Pradesh is back from the brink. The Centre’s report damned the reserve as ‘poor’. The Naxalite presence threatened the tiger’s core habitat for more than a decade and foresters could not enter the area. But the tiger population inched up to 53 in 2008 from just 34 in the nineties. “The Naxal presence is still there. But the forest field staff have started going inside for habitat improvement, a vast change from the time when no kind of administration existed there,’’ says A K Nayak, the field director.
But there are reasons to worry as well. At a recent seminar in Chennai, the chief wildlife wardens of the southern states admitted they did not have enough trained staff to take on poachers. In the rainforest habitats of Kalakad-Periyar and Anaimalai-Parambikulam, low tiger density can be reversed only if the prey base is protected. “The time has come for the foresters to go back to old-fashioned conservation, that is physical protection of forests, leaving development to other departments,’’ Karanth, one of India’s top tiger experts, told the seminar.
Karanth believes tigers will survive and thrive. Perhaps the Western Ghats are a proof that he is right.
EUREKA Catch a tiger by its poo Saira Kurup | TNN
No one can say how many tigers India really has unless we start to collect their poo and use it for DNA identification.
Conservationists are relying less on the traditional method of counting — tracking pugmarks — which is reportedly prone to errors. Instead, the most hi-tech tool may be a poop scoop. And a camera.
Cameras strategically placed along wildlife trails provide photos of the unique striped pattern on a tiger’s flanks. This is matched with DNA identification of faeces, a new, non-invasive way of collecting DNA samples. Earlier methods required tissue or blood samples from the sedated animal.
Faeces samples are carefully collected to avoid contamination and preserved in absolute alcohol.
It is first screened for species identification — tiger or leopard? After the DNA is extracted, individual tigers are identified and the results are matched with the findings of camera traps in the relevant area.
The camera trap method has been successfully used in various reserves to record tiger numbers. But in places such as the Sundarbans, Siberia and the rainforests of south-east Asia, where tiger density is low and camera trapping impractical because of the hostile environment, DNA identification through tiger faeces may work well, Bangalore scientists of the Wildlife Conservation Society said in a recent paper in Biological Conservation journal.
They say that DNA identification can also be useful in the broader context of counting other animal numbers too. Counting a particularly elusive species becomes easier if its droppings become invaluable DNA samples.




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