Tuesday, March 8, 2016
India. Do NOT declare many species of wild animals as vermin!
India. Do NOT declare many species of wild animals as vermin!
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Subject: India. Do NOT declare many species of wild animals as vermin!
Dear Sir, dear Madam:
I want to let you know that I fully support FIAPO and the contents of their letter below!
----We write to you from the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO).
We are India’s apex animal protection body. As the collective voice of the animal protection movement in India, FIAPO is the catalyst which protects the interests of animals on local and national levels – through education, research, lobbying, mobilization, training and direct action. Created for the movement, by the movement, we are India’s only national federation with over 60 members and more than 200 supporter organisations nationally.
We’re writing to you today to express grave concern over the rising trend of declaring many species of wild animals such as wild boars, Neelgai (blue Bull), Macaque as vermin.
While an effort to solve the issues arising out of crop destruction are much appreciated, the methodology to exterminate animals that currently protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 may upset ecological balances.
Problems Resulting from Declaring Wild Animal Species as Vermin
Historically, there have been examples of animals being declared as vermin with unfavorable results. For example,
• In 1976, Rajasthan placed foxes and jackals in Schedule V as they were considered a “nuisance” but were listed in Schedule II in 1988 after they were poached indiscriminately and were on the verge of extinction.
• In the 1950s and 1960s in the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh, the outside settlers (people from Pakistan who were given land after Partition) demanded licenses in the name of crop protection, for the entire area was a forest. Hence, gun licenses were issued to all and sundry. Eventually these guns formed the basis of the Naxalite movement which engulfed the state for over a decade.
• In 1958, Chinese leader Mao Zedong identified the need to exterminate the Eurasian tree sparrow because they ate grain seeds. The masses took to banging pots and pans or beating drums to scare away the birds, forcing them to fly until they fell in exhaustion. Sparrow nests were torn down, eggs broken, and nestlings killed, resulting in the near-extinction of the birds. By 1960, the Chinese leaders realised that sparrows ate a large amount of insects, as well as grains. Rather than increasing, the rice yields had substantially decreased. Mao ordered the end of the campaign against sparrows. It was too late. With no sparrows to eat them, locust populations ballooned, swarming the countryside and compounding the ecological problems leading to the Great Famine, in which 20 million died of starvation.
• Then, in 1959, Mao declared the south China tiger “a pest” and its population dropped from 4,000 to 200 in a few years. In 1977, the government realised that the tiger was actually a farmer’s friend as it helped to keep the deer population in check. Again, it was too late. The remaining tigers failed to survive in the wild.
• There are examples where culling has been used to manage disease transmission in wildlife. Among the most studied is the use of culling to eradicate bovine tuberculosis in badgers in south-west England in 1975 (badgers were blamed for spreading the disease to cattle). Finally, the scientists reached the consensus that the methods that could be used to control the disease should include trapping and vaccinating Badgers.
Alternatives to Culling
Declaring certain species as vermin and selective extermination of the same is an extreme step towards crop protection, and can result in increased wildlife crime; unregulated killing of animals; leading to an overall loss of biodiversity. There are many more effective alternatives to resolving human wildlife conflict.
• Restoring wild habitats, working with villages in critical wild animal corridors, creating physical barriers (solar fencing), providing interim relief schemes to forest dwellers, providing alternatives to village residents to reduce pressure on forest resources, evacuating people from illegally-encroached forestlands, declaring areas as protected zones for wildlife, exploring and supporting alternative livelihood options and spreading awareness among villagers for animal protection are some alternative methods to the practice of culling wild animals.
• Innovative methods to prevent crop destruction have also included using bio-pesticides for preventing blue bull conflict. Jatropha plantation too has been suggested as a very effective way. The use of paraffin base and organic sources has also been suggested as a way to keep blue bulls away from fields.
Furthermore, MoEFCC has also recommended many alternative solutions to manage human wildlife conflict:
1. Publicity; help lines, public information on help lines and other reporting places and means in case of any conflict situation requiring support of the forest department.
2. Hubs in place for receiving the information and onwards transmission for quick response– they can be set up in easily accessible locations.
3. Mobilising volunteers like the ‘Vanya Praani Mitra’ programme of the Gujarat forest Department and many others to take preliminary steps for mobilizing local help in cases of emergencies
4. Run regular information campaigns on conservation friendly practices such as cultivating species that do not attract local wildlife, steps to be taken when one by chance interacts with wildlife, and encouraging human activities that may deter wildlife in proximity to human habitations.
5. Signages in the identified localities for occurrence, precautions and suggested actions in case of interaction with wild animals.
In the long term, improvement of forest habitats, better protection, enhancement of information and knowledge of wildlife.
1. Clearing Vistas along the boundary of forests in close proximity to habitation to avoid chance encounters.
2. Identifying regular movement corridors of large wildlife and adequate publicity for avoiding disturbance in such areas,
3. Upkeep of status of wildlife, especially in potential areas, and specifically, at times of migration or general movement.
4. Delegation at field level for deciding and disbursing the ex gratia amount for its effective use for addressing damage, trauma and providing relief.
5. Regular motioning and review by the Chief Wildlife wardens, especially at areas of high conflict.
6. Compilation of comparable cases of conflict and best practices for taking decisions and helping wildlife.
7. Maintaining foraging ground within the forest along boundaries, free of lantana and weeds, by augmenting palatable grasses and other forage species.
We strongly urge you to take up these alternative methods of crop protection, and averting human wildlife conflict and undertake policy decisions accordingly, before sanctioning the killing of perceived vermin species. We urge you to involve the respective State Animal Welfare Boards and State Boards for Wildlife in arriving at specific action plans for conflict mitigation in each state.
We look forward to working with your progressive government to address this issue in a holistic manner.