Shooting at Tigers – When will we learn?
Today is World Environment Day – but still the gun outshines the camera when we are shooting at endangered species such as the tiger.
There are now 41,415 species on the IUCN Red List and 16,306 of them are threatened with extinction, up from 16,118 last year. This includes both endangered animals and endangered plants (as stated by Bagheera).
One in four mammals, one in eight birds, one third of all amphibians and 70% of the world’s assessed plants on the 2007 IUCN Red List are in jeopardy.
In the last 500 years, human activity is known to have
forced 820 species to extinction (or extinction in the wild).
Following on from my post about the Bengal tigers at Ranthambhore we should consider why we need to shoot them (remember only with a camera)? We need to record their images, partly for recognition during conservation activities, and of course partly because, two generations on, and that is all we may have left of them.The wildlife photographer has a particular responsibility to travel to places where they can photograph wildlife in situ and record for generations to come, what we are likely to lose.
However conservation is a complex topic, in theory as well as practice -take the example of Ranthambhore reserve again:
Summary of threats to the Reserve – as stated in the Management Plan 2002 – 2012 of the Project Tiger
- Tigers Ranthambhore
Ranthambore Tiger Reserve is virtually an ecological island burdened with heavy pressure of human and cattle population. The economy and livelihood of local people depend to a large extent on the resources of Reserve. The Reserve is comparatively a small area of forest; the isolated wild life population of Reserve is vulnerable from the point of availability of food & water, health and inbreeding. The major threats to wild life can be considered as under :
Deterioration of Eco-system in Buffer areas
The Reserve is a small area which is under tremendous pressure from all directions. The main cause of deterioration is grazing of live stock in buffer zone as well as in some areas of core zone. The number of grazing cattle is very high and as a result the buffer areas of Ranthambore National Park and Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary are fast reaching to a point of total degradation.
Illicit cutting and collection of fuel wood and timber is also taking its toll on the buffer areas. Mining is also disturbing the habitat in some of the areas. The noise, debris and vehicular disturbance is making the affected area unavailable to the wild life, there by reducing the net area for the wild life.
The presence of villages inside the reserve and the encroachments near the reserve boundaries are also contributing to the habitat loss and reduction in net area available to the wild life.
- Tigress and cubs -Aditya Singh
All these factors are gradually shrinking the habitat and also damaging the quality of habitat in the Reserve, which is a cause of grave concern for the management.
the wildlife of Tiger Reserve is an isolated population. The destruction of corridors with surrounding forests is a grave concern for the survival of the reserve. For smaller mammals it is not very important because they can migrate to other areas or live on revenue lands but for larger mammals like Tiger, Sambhar, Chital, and Chinkara the migration to other areas has not been possible. It has created a situation in which there is a danger of inbreeding. This may lead to genetic deformities and other adverse consequences. Habitat degradation due to loss of top soil and silting up of water holes.
- Puzzled? Aditya Singh
The basic problem with tiger conservation (in fact all conservation) in India is:
1. It is too centralized and elitist. All our conservation planning is done by people who are basically rich, based in metros and are very far removed from the ground reality. As a result their plans just do not work and have not been working for over 25 years. After 25 years of failure they are still in the driving seat. This includes the Project Tiger, Supreme Court’s Special Empowered Committee etc etc. Any ground level conservation initiative is killed as soon as it starts becoming popular. The only conservation initiatives that have worked in the world are those which had support at ground level.
- Leopard-Dicky Singh
2. It is too unscientific. There has been no decent research done on tigers for the last 45 years. Schaller in Kanha did the last one in mid 1960s. The data on the basis of which conservation planning is done in India is totally false and has been falsified for the last 30 years. How can you come out with a workable solution if the data that you have is totally false.
3. It is too low priority. The government does not care, the rulers do not care, the conservationists do not care – basically we all talk but rarely act. There is no will, no funds, no responsibility and no workable plans. This for an industry that generated over US $ 2 Billion per annum and employs huge amount of people, who are often the poorest of the poor.
As Aditya Singh says “Some one has to catch the bull by the horns and only then would things begin to change”.
The likeness of the dodo was only captured by a passing artist as the camera was not around then (1600’s) , but the story of the loss of such a bird (trusting as it was) has not been heeded.
The IUCN is the most trusted body for knowledge about endangered species.
- Extinct: the last remaining member of the species has died, or is presumed beyond reasonable doubt to have died. Examples: Thylacine, Dodo, Passenger Pigeon, Caribbean Monk Seal
- Extinct in the wild: captive individuals survive, but there is no free-living, natural population. Examples:South China Tiger, Alagoas Curassow
- Critically endangered: faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future. Examples: Arakan Forest Turtle, Javan Rhino, Brazilian Merganser, Gharial
- Endangered: faces a very high risk of extinction in the near future. Examples: Blue Whale, Giant Panda, Snow Leopard, African Wild Dog, Tiger, Albatross, Crowned Solitary Eagle, Dhole
- Vulnerable: faces a high risk of extinction in the medium-term. Examples: Cheetah, Gaur, Lion, Sloth Bear, Wolverine, Manatee
- Conservation Dependent: The following animal is not severely threatened, but the animal must depend on conservation programs. Examples: Spotted Hyena, Leopard Shark, Black Caiman
- Near Threatened: may be considered threatened in the near future. Examples: Blue-billed Duck, Solitary Eagle, Small-clawed Otter , Maned Wolf
There are many opportunities to find out more about endangered and vulnerable species and SHOOT (with the camera) before they are also gone, forever:
- IUCN Red List
- List of Conservation topics
- List of endangered animal species
- Threatened species
- United States Fish and Wildlife Service list of endangered species
- World Conference on Breeding Endangered Species in Captivity as an Aid to their Survival (WCBESCAS)
- World Conservation Union (IUCN)
- World Wide Fund for Nature
We can still learn from past mistakes….
Check out Shakun Harris blog for more on the demise of the Dodo.