logo

The Entire World is a Family

- Maha Upanishad

image

Environment

Nov 09, 2018

Wildlife Corridors: Why is their Maintenance so Important for India’s Tigers?

Four hundred planned construction projects raises important questions about the definition and function of wildlife corridors.

WRITTEN BY

Jahnvi Pananchikal

India is home to the largest tiger population in the world. That’s 2226 tigers, to be precise. To help ensure that this number does not drop, wildlife corridors are maintained, but this also needs to be counterbalanced to account for human needs.

“The obvious function of corridors is to facilitate physical movement”

A recent DownToEarth article announced that 400 new construction projects would impact wildlife corridors within Central and Eastern India. It garnered lots of attention, largely because so many new building projects in forest zones is often perceived as lacking any consideration for animals.

However, there are always two sides to the story. To get clarity, The Outdoor Journal dug a little deeper.

Photo: Bjoern

What are Wildlife Corridors?

According to an article published by senior programme officers at WWF, the definition of wildlife corridors varies from country to country. However the WWF themselves, explain that “the obvious function of corridors is to facilitate physical movement, which is crucial to the long-term viability of animal population: feeding/foraging, seasonal migrations as well as permanent movements in case of habitats being rendered unfit (due to climate change or other anthropo- genic factors) are facilitated by, and occur through, corridors.”

How Important are the Corridors in India, and will they be New Construction Projects?

The Outdoor Journal reached out to two experts, Shree Mahendra Vyas, tenured Supreme Court lawyer, and Latika Nath, expert tiger conservationist.

According to Shree Vyas, who has been advocating for 15 years, “some corridors are absolutely vital. Such as the Kanha to Pench reserve, where roads pass from Nagpur to Raipur, through so many protected and critical areas. In such ecologically sensitive areas, a high degree of care has to be taken to make sure that there is no irreversible damage, but this is not the case everywhere.”

Vyas also pointed out that not all 400 projects may be in highly ecological sensitive zones. Therefore, reporters need to validate their claim based on actual findings of the whereabouts of those projects. So far, the location of these projects are unknown.

There is no evidence available within the public domain, that discloses the nature and location of these projects. Of course, this does not detract us from emphasising why corridors are important and to advocate for their maintenance.

Why Wildlife Corridors are Vital for Tigers

The WWF reiterates that wildlife corridors should serve as an essential consideration in infrastructure planning and development. Their connectivity ensures that wildlife habitat is secure and animal movement is smooth, at a time of an increasing proximity of humans and animals. These corridors are maintained in such a way that human development doesn’t significantly interfere with animal life.

“The worrying thing about development in recent years, is the alienation of the Forest Officials from the local populations.”

Moreover, these wildlife corridors play an important role in the breeding process of tigers. Latika Nath points out that “by ensuring that there are corridors connecting large patches of tiger habitat, we ensure that there is a genetically healthy tiger population as well as space, for transient and dispersing animals to cross to new areas to establish and maintain healthy breeding populations of tigers in the wild.”

Nath also shed light on the significance of cooperation between forest officials and the local populations, in promising the safety of wildlife. However, Nath claims that things are a bit different now, with increasing urbanization.

“Kanha is one of the better managed National parks of the country. The worrying thing about development in recent years is the alienation of the Forest Officials from the local populations. I have seen and participated in many events where the forest officials used the goodwill of local populations to deal with forest fires, disease outbreaks, and problematic animals. Increasingly today there is a “us vs them” feeling being perpetuated by officials and this is a huge concern,” she explains.

“The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (‘WLPA’) fails to address habitat connectivity in a concrete way.”

WWF officers explain that “the long-term survival of species depend on maintaining viable habitats and connecting corridors which ensures variation in gene pool, and avoids risks associated with habitat fragmentation and the isolation of species. Further, for ensuring viable habitats it is essential to maintain large, contiguous landscapes.”

Photo: Vijay Phulwadhawa

The Impact of Linear Infrastructure and Tourism on Wildlife Corridors

India has a number of wildlife corridors, but they need to be well-defined. As of today, The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (‘WLPA’) does have provisions for notification and management of protected areas, but hasn’t addressed connectivity in any clear manner.

In the scientific study, an increasing emphasis on linear infrastructure is stated as a major reason for habitat fragmentation and isolation of species. Whether it’s roads, trains or power lines, the increasing human needs without sufficient consideration for wildlife protection has been detrimental not only to the forests, but also to the wildlife and human communities that live around it.

Latika Nath additionally puts the responsibility on unplanned tourism. “The uncontrolled proliferation of smaller tourism facilities with no built in measures for pollution control has led to huge pressures on the habitat,” she says.

Citing numerous examples, Nath feels that unsustainable development has only had an adverse impact on the ecological status in these areas, and that needs to be addressed properly. “Tiger and elephants’ movement routes have been affected, building has taken place without any attention to the ratios of built up areas to green areas, and noise and light pollution has not been discussed. In many regions the demand for water has impacted on the water table of the region and unsustainable pressures on rivers and streams,” she explains.

Shree Mahendra Vyas is of a similar opinion.  “Considering the developmental demand for people for roads, railways, or other forms of intrusions in the forest area et cetera, there is a pressure on the integrity of our wildlife habitats.”

“We can’t sensationalize things. These issues have to be understood and dealt with objectivity.”

Vyas also agrees that “all linear intrusions in the forest areas are a major form of disruption, and destroying the ecological integrity of that area and adversely affecting wildlife found in that area. Many of them cause irreversible damage to that area, many permanently blocking the corridors in the area. But which are those areas? They (project companies) have a tendency of doing all these things, unless strong mitigation measures are in place. But we can’t sensationalize things. These issues have to be understood and dealt with objectivity.”

“The government has to focus on creating urban and rural development plans that protect the environment and control the spawning of unplanned constructions.”

“We want everything for ourselves, and nothing for others. It’s a dicey area. So we have to think. People don’t think. Have we reduced our own demands, whether it’s water, electricity, or cars?” he remarked. Vyas sincerely thinks that the Supreme Court has always done its best to protect wildlife. The Chief Justices have ensured that laws are consistently revised to meet the changing needs of the human population, whilst trying to keep nature in mind. However, they haven’t gotten any credit for their efforts. The Indian population needs to be made aware of this lack of acknowledgment.

The Balancing Act

It is clearly evident from the perspectives of WWF programme officers, environmental lawyers and conservationists, that as of now, there are no guidelines that define wildlife corridors in India. This is an area that needs attention. While human-animal conflict is inevitable, there is no denying that effective law enforcement, scientific research, and strong mitigation measures are crucial in maintaining ecological balance. Additionally, people living in rural and urban communities need to do their bit to ensure that individuals change their personal behaviour before pointing fingers at others.

Photo: Latika Nath

Latika mentions how tourism can be used to increase awareness and create better protection for tigers in India.

“The government has to focus on creating urban and rural development plans that protect the environment and control the spawning of unplanned constructions. By increasing focus on improving the tourism experience in India, they need to capitalize and maximise the revenues from tourism and then perhaps the sheer economic importance of maintaining our pristine wilderness areas and biodiversity will be an important enough focus to stand up against the pressures of the industry and development,” she remarks.

We also have examples of communities where ecological sensibility is present. Take the case of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, for instance. The local conservationists and the park authorities signed an MoU to conduct science-based management of the wildlife region. Effectively, it means that the Mumbai population is basically living with the knowledge of leopards in their surroundings, but don’t feel afraid of them.

Moreover, there are reasons why India has the highest number of tigers today. Back in 2015, conservationists recognised the efforts of the Indian government to preserve the tiger population, which led to an increase in their numbers. The main reason cited for those healthy figures was giving tigers enough space, which was made possible with willingness, extensive research and appropriate technology.

Now, what’s absolutely necessary is to keep up the good work, strengthen the Indian forest departments with knowledge and tools, and ensure that the wildlife corridors are well-defined and properly maintained in India. With such efforts armed with scientific tools and the right attitude, animals and humans can coexist in a peaceful way.

Continue Reading

image

Environment

May 14, 2019

Bringing Kiwi Back to Wellington

As New Zealand announces a new plan to reverse the decline of the iconic kiwi bird, Wellingtonians are already lining up to save their emblematic bird.

image

WRITTEN BY

Sean Verity

This article was made available to The Outdoor Journal via a press release by Tourism New Zealand.

As New Zealand announces a new plan to reverse the decline of the iconic Kiwi bird, Wellingtonians are already lining up to save their emblematic bird. Wellingtonians are known for their love of flat whites and their passion for the arts. But there’s a new pastime that’s rapidly growing in New Zealand’s capital and all around the country.

Assembling and setting traps for rats, stoats and other predators in their own backyards. It’s a somewhat unlikely hobby, but in Wellington alone, there are now more than 70 community groups involved in pest management.  They’re all aiming at making their home town the first predator-free capital city in the world and a paradise for native birds such as the tīeke (Saddleback), hihi (stitchbird), kākā, kākāriki and toutouwai (North Island robin). 

In Wellington alone there are now more than 70 community groups involved in pest management all aiming at making their home town the first predator-free capital city in the world. Photo by: Capital Kiwi

Ever since conservation project Zealandia created a fully fenced 225-hectare ecosanctuary within the city limits in 1999, native birdlife has returned to many suburbs and Wellingtonians have embraced their avian friends. The groups are part of a groundswell of community conservation initiatives sweeping New Zealand and delivering fantastic results.

“Where once it would have been a remarkable sight to see a single kākā (a boisterous native parrot) in the wilderness of our mountain ranges, we now have literally hundreds of them across Wellington city, screeching across city skies,” says self-confessed “bird nerd” Paul Ward. Buoyed by the birdsong orchestra he thought, “Why stop there? Let’s bring back New Zealand’s most iconic bird, the Kiwi.” “The only time I’d seen a Kiwi growing up was in a zoo, and that’s not right for our national taonga (treasure),” he insists. 

The flightless birds with hair-like feathers and the chopstick bill have been absent from Wellington for over a century due to the loss of their habitat and the spread of predators. Ward’s ambitious project Capital Kiwi hopes to lure Kiwi back to the Wellington region within the next decade. Approximately 4,400 traps will be set on 23,000 hectares of public and private land stretching from the outskirts of town to the coast.

“Kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime”

As long as stoats, ferrets and weasels are around, Kiwi chicks have hardly any chance of surviving their first year.  An average of 27 Kiwis are killed by predators each day according to charity ‘Kiwis for Kiwi’ which supports community-led initiatives around the country. They warn that at this rate “Kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime.” 

But projects in Rakiura / Stewart Island in the south of New Zealand, Whangarei Heads in the north and Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty have shown that with the involvement of the community as kaitiaki (guardians) it is possible to grow a wild Kiwi population. 

The project Capital Kiwi hopes to bring New Zealand’s iconic birds back to Wellington by setting more than 4,000 traps in the hills on the outskirts of the city. Photo by: Capital Kiwi.

Michelle Impey, from Kiwis for Kiwi explains that one of the challenges of Kiwi conservation is “getting people to understand and care about something they can’t see and don’t experience.”

Kiwis are nocturnal, and with only a few exceptions live far removed from cities, towns and villages. “Bringing Kiwi closer to where Kiwis live makes them top of mind, completely relevant, and creates a sense of ownership with those who are privileged enough to have them living on or near their land,” Impey adds. She hopes that the new project will create “a city of Kiwi conservationists” who feel a personal attachment to their national bird. 

In August 2018 the government’s Predator Free 2050 initiative, which aims to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators that threaten the nation’s natural wildlife by 2050, announced their support for Capital Kiwi, committing more than NZ$3.2 million over the next five years.  It may sound like a lot of money, but the other way of looking at this is “What is the cost if we don’t?” Ward ponders.

“Can we, as a nation of Kiwis, afford to let our national icon die and become extinct? What would that say about us as guardians of the taonga (treasure) that makes our country so special and unique?”

https://www.outdoorjournal.com/featured/environment/reaction-european-single-use-plastic-ban/

Ninety-year-old Ted Smith, who lives in the small seaside settlement of Makara just over the hills from Wellington, helped to kick off the project with the setting of the first trap in November. He and his local community started trapping in their backyards a decade ago which resulted in a remarkable increase in birdlife – tūī, kākā, kererū, pūkeko, kingfishers, quails and others. “If we allow Kiwi to die out then we deserve to be called idiots,” he says. Wellingtonians love the vision of having Kiwi rummaging through their gardens and Ward says he’s been overwhelmed with the offers of help and support from the community.  

“We want to see Kiwi come back into Wellington”

Capital Kiwi has received hundreds of emails from people keen to help. Schoolchildren are now monitoring tracking tunnels, mountain bikers and trail runners check reserve trap lines on lunchtime rides and families come together to build traps. If the eradication proves successful after three years, the Department of Conservation will look at translocating Kiwi to the hillsides. The hope is that in less than a decade, tourists will be able to post their Kiwi encounters on the outskirts of Wellington on social media, and locals will beam with pride at hearing the shrill call of the country’s iconic birds in their backyards. 

“I would love to be woken up by the sound of the Kiwi. We want to see Kiwi come back into Wellington,” the capital’s Major Justin Lester says. 

The Department of Conservation is backing Capital Kiwi too. “Getting Kiwi back into the hills of Wellington where people can hear them call is a great way to demonstrate what New Zealand could look like if we get rid of the stoats and ferrets,” DOC’s Jack Mace says. 

“It would certainly add another feather to Wellington’s cap as one of the best places to see New Zealand’s unique wildlife.”

Introducing The Outdoor Voyage

Whilst you’re here, given you believe in our mission, we would love to introduce you to The Outdoor Voyage – our booking platform and online marketplace which only lists good operators, who care for sustainability, the environment and immersive, authentic experiences. All listed prices are agreed directly with the operator, and we promise that 86% of any money spent ends up supporting the local community that you’re visiting. Click the image below to find out more.

Cover Photo: New Zealand’s little spotted Kiwi at Zealandia Eco-sanctuary in Wellington. Photo by: Zealandia Eco-sanctuary

 

Recent Articles



Field Notes: Solo Ultra-Running the High Himalaya

Peter Van Geit, wilderness explorer, ultra-runner, Founder of the Chennai Trekking Club, shares the field notes from his 1500 km alpine-style run across 40 high altitude passes the Himalaya.

Plastic Patrol: How One World Record Became a Global Movement

Eco-activist and paddleboard adventurer Lizzie Carr inspires a global community of citizen scientists to map plastic pollution in her crisis-fighting app.

The Dream of Everest: Four Arab Women Challenge Social Expectations

Pushing back against social norms, some with family resistance, some with support, these women from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Oman are proving that social expectations do not count for anything.

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Advertising

Analytics

Other