Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Indian students launch drive to save tiger

By Pamela Raghunath, Correspondent
Published: 06/06/2007 12:00 AM (UAE)

Mumbai: A group of school children and teachers yesterday presented a "Save the Tiger" cloth scroll signed by over 280,000 pupils from across India to Maharashtra Governor S. M. Krishna with a fervent hope that their voices will be heard by people in power on World Environment Day.

The signature campaign under Sanctuary Asia magazine's Kids for Tigers programme, held in 550 schools in 20 cities, created a deep awareness in young minds to save the country's national animal. "Tiger's Destiny - Now or Never" was the theme during the last academic year, demonstrating the connection between the survival of the tiger and the ecological security of the Indian subcontinent. In Mumbai alone, more than 46,000 signatures were collected from 90 schools.

"Pupils came forward enthusiastically at signature camps with great expectations that people in power will now be swayed by their voice," said Mayuri Shah of Sanctuary.

Dire situation

To the contrary, the situation is dark since good sense is yet to prevail on political parties, bureaucrats, government officials and most importantly the Central and state governments, according to a conservationist working in central India's tiger land. Kishor Rithe of Nature Conservation Society, Amravati, and Satpura Foundation, Nagpur, says, "If only our rulers and planners understood that environmental protection was more important than economic development, our country would not be facing such a crisis: of a sharp decline in tiger population as the recent Wildlife Institute of India report has shown," he told Gulf News, speaking on telephone from Amravati.

So far, the shocking report has not stirred any state government in to taking positive measures to protect wildlife, he added.

Rithe's open letter on May 25 to Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil, who is also in charge of Home affairs, on rampant poaching in the state elicited no reply but "at least, my letter has been circulated among all the collectors in the state so that some action is taken."

He apprised Patil of poaching gangs coming from Madhya Pradesh and operating in the wildlife areas of Vidarbha in central India, where tigers once thrived. "The Bahelia community from MP prepares special steel traps to kill tigers, leopards and sloth bears and their traders engage in transporting wildlife derivatives like bones, skin, deer antlers, bear bile and so on."

The modus operandi of the poachers is smooth and systematic: first get local support, including the village chief and police involved in their crime. In a place where unemployment is high, villagers are happy to place steel traps in the forests and earn quick money.

What India needs is stringent laws and quick action.

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