News

    Indian Conservationists Question Plan to Repopulate Empty Tiger Reserve

    The tiger is India's national symbol, but it is getting difficult to spot the animal in its native habitat. The country now finds itself in the embarrassing position of having tiger reserves without any tigers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from New Delhi on the state of the Indian tiger and a controversial plan to relocate some of the big cats.

    Sightings of tigers in their natural habitat in India are becoming more infrequent every year. Ranthambhore National Park, in the state of Rajasthan, is one of the best places to see the tigers. That has made it a popular tourist attraction bringing much needed revenue to the rural area.

    Other tiger reserves are not so lucky. In the Sariska Reserve, also in Rajasthan, the tourists have vanished because no tigers have been spotted there since November 2004. Humans are blamed for wiping out Sarika's tiger population.

    In response, the Ministry of Environment and Forests plans to take some tigers from Ranthambhore to repopulate Sariska. The head of the Ministry's Project Tiger, Rajesh Gopal, endorses the idea.

    "We can very well afford to translocate a few spillover tiger cubs in the prime age group from geographically distant areas within the tiger reserve, Ranthambhore itself, for Sariska," he said. "We can do that."

    But the response from many conservationists is "don't do that."

    They argue that any tigers moved from Ranthambhore face peril because 10,000 people live inside the Sariska Park. They include villagers who see the tiger as a threat to their animals, and poachers who sell tiger skins and other body parts, believed to have medicinal and aphrodisiac powers, on the thriving black market across the border in Nepal and China.

    One of India's best known tiger lovers, conservationist Valmik Thapar, says the plan to relocate a few of the park's villages will not save the endangered animal.

    "If they don't want to go and none of them leave then you cannot relocate tigers because tigers and people don't co-exist," said Thapar. "The tiger salivates when it looks at the four-legged creatures that people in villages have, which are cows and buffaloes. There is conflict then between man and tiger, always has been for centuries."

    Tiger conservationists lament that no one in India's government has the fierce commitment to saving the animal as did former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She cracked down on tiger hunting and the fur trade and initiated the first nine reserves under Project Tiger, which she kept free of political interference.

    The current overseer of Project Tiger, Gopal, refutes the critics.

    "The Tiger Task Force came up with a set of urgent recommendations which are being implemented upon," said Gopal. "These are being monitored at the highest level of the government. So I don't see in any manner that the interest has diminished or the efforts have reduced."

    But the numbers demonstrate otherwise. When Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated in 1984, there were an estimated 4,000 tigers across India. Now the official number is about 3,500 with some conservationists, such as Thapar, claiming the actual total is likely to be half that figure.

    "There's a complete failure of governance. And the tiger will end up being, in another three to four years, it'll come down to a population of maybe 500 or 600. And then the world will start to shout - a bit late in the day," he said.

    Those who are supposed to protect the tiger find themselves literally outgunned by poachers. There are too few guards to adequately patrol the vast expanses and they do not carry guns.

    Former forestry official, Sujoy Banerjee, who directs the species conservation program in India for the World Wildlife Fund, says policy should focus on apprehending the kingpins of the organized tiger trade.

    "There is a need for more concerted action against the big poachers rather than actually the small ones because the small ones will eventually die out themselves because they won't have a market, they won't be able to sell," he said.

    India is a major source for the tiger parts trade, with Interpol estimating that illegal wildlife products in total generate $12 billion a year worldwide.

    With that sort of money in play, conservationists say India's tigers remain in serious danger.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora