A 'kurz' overview

CSE Fellowship Media Briefing on ‘Backs to the wall: Tigers, tiger habitats and conservation’
By: Papia Samajdar

Finally, we managed to pull through the much challenged fellowship media briefing on tigers and issues around tiger conservation, and not just pulled through but did quite a good job of it, as it turned out -- gauging from the feedback of the resource people, and of course the journalists who, I believe, need this kind of downpour of information to make them understand the issues in-depth.

Typical as most of our media briefings are, one day was in-house sessions, which showed how miserably we are failing in all aspects, since the whole conservation paradigm that we are trying to achieve, needs an overhaul! The real beneficiaries in this whole conservation game are the poachers and of course the tourism industry. Tigers are being killed every month at an atrocious rate -- be it by the army, local villagers or poachers; every one has their share!

TRAFFIC showed some alarming numbers of tiger death - 56 in 2012 itself, while the NTCA has issued a directive that 'every tiger death will be treated as a case of poaching, unless proven otherwise'-- not that that has resulted in huge shift of tiger deaths reporting. The recent case of Corbett Director reporting the remains of a tiger as a 'jackal' confirms to what extent the forest department is cooperating.

Some very interesting and insightful work was shown by WWF, who are doing a lot on counting. An acute conclusion which was shown in the case of Corbett was even though Ramnagar forest is not a protected site , an equal number if not more tigers have been traced there with their camera traps, which they have set up at specified locations in the corridor. NTCA is also experimenting with hi-tech GPS satellite censor remote control camera tower in Corbett, which can be monitored by the NTCA office in New Delhi.

Issues of eco tourism, FRA versus the WLPA, and relocation under this act were discussed. The funding of NTCA was touched upon by Dr Gopal, member secretary, NTCA. Forceful relocation, fencing and the politics of it all brought forward some very interesting facts.

Project tiger has spent Rs 350 crores till the 11th five year plan; during the 11th plan the funding was stepped up to an allocation of Rs 650 crores. 750 villages with 48,500 families live in core areas, of which 80 villages were relocated untill 2005 and total of 105 villages have been relocated as of June 2012.

Equitable tourism had some very interesting take on eco tourism. "Tourism is seasonal, and it can only act as a supplement to livelihood". "Tourism should be regulated, more important than policies, regulations are required" Swathi Seshadri, representing Equitable tourism took up the example of Jungle Resort Lodge (JRL) in Karnataka which has taken some positive steps - the presentation has the details.

Another problem area is religious tourism- there are no policies.

The briefing closed with some very valuable opinions from experts

"Change the paradigm of conservation. Find a model - conservation benefits local communities and the tiger"
"Aggressive exclusive agenda for wildlife protection in core areas, and equally aggressive inclusive agenda in the buffer zones of the parks"
"We need to be imaginative in finding alternatives to relocation"
"There are 620 other protected areas, we should  spread awareness about these"

The day’s final presentation was very disturbing presentation -- on how “tiger is a commodity” for poachers. Unfortunately the presentation made by TRAFFIC got deleted; however we do have the video, which will erase all the peace we might have had after the well advertised 'Save our tigers' campaign. The urgency of the conservation of the wild cat is more than ever. The experts made it very clear, that we are not dealing with amateurs when we talk about poachers – “if we know the density of tigers, be sure they are to know it too”.

The workshop brought together experts who are looking at various aspects, however to my mind, we still have not reached a 'solution' which will ensure better protection, if any at all. The various departments are unable to combat the nexus of tiger poachers and other animal poachers (for that matter), are struggling to work with the communities, are being manipulated by the very powerful tourism industry, are short staffed and under-funded. The tiger has to protect itself, from all these evils if not more... 

The much celebrated second part of the briefing was the field trip to Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand; 38 journalists were taken for the visit, the main area of focus was of course to site the tiger, which was a distant reality with a noisy bunch of journalists. The group was briefed by the park director, Mr Ranjan Misra who had many tales to tell about the challenging nature of his job.

The media team was however quite pleased with themselves for pulling this one through, in spite of physical and metaphysical resistance.

For more details, please get in touch with Papia at papia@cseindia.org