BANGKOK: India should step up efforts to revamp its forest service and create a separate wildlife cadre for tigers which can work in partnership with other agencies to protect the animal, a top conservationist has said.
Valmik Thapar, an Indian conservationist, is of the view that when the British left India they also left behind the Indian Forest Service, whose primary duty was cutting of forests and use of forests.
"That scenario has changed now, it is not only about protecting the forest but also protecting its wildlife," he said adding that wildlife protection was a very tiny part of the service and not sufficient and called for a wildlife cadre.
"If India wants more landscape for tigers, a separate cadre has to be carved," he said on the sidelines of a Tiger protection conference here. "The time has come for change, new partnerships without that tigers won't be alive," he told PTI.
The Tiger conference organised by the UN office of Drugs and Crime saw police and customs heads and Tiger conservationists from 13 Asian countries agreeing to tighten controls and improve cross border cooperation to curb the illegal smuggling of tigers and other critically endangered species.
"We must take immediate and urgent action to save these magnificent animals from extinction," Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the World Customs Organisation said.
Thapar said poaching was linked to a government. "Poaching accelerate, when there is a bad and weak government as poachers exploit these gaps," he said, adding that bad governance and bad political leadership also led to the endangerment of animal species.
He felt that India's forest department did not like change. "We need to rethink otherwise we have no hope," he lamented. Meanwhile, the Global Tiger Initiative of the World Bank said India faced major challenges in sustaining the integrity and inviolability of core tiger habitats and corridors (mounting pressures from roads, mining and extraction industries).
It said that one billion US dollars were needed to relocate villages out of the core areas.
Another challenge was in maintaining tiger occupancy in habitats outside tiger reserves and noted there was a 20 per cent in tiger occupancy observed habitats outside designated tiger reserves. A third challenge according to the Tiger Initiative was managing human-wildlife relationships noting there had been increased tiger-human conflict in some landscapes.
However the Global Initiative also noted that India had made some major achievements. These included addition of 2,500 km2 of new tiger habitat by establishing two new Tiger Reserves bringing a total of 54,656 Km2 under 41 Tiger reserves. This represented a five per cent increase in tiger habitat under protection, it said adding that five more tiger reserves were under establishment and another six were proposed.
It said across the country, tiger and prey estimations had recorded a modest increase in tiger numbers and that wildlife corridors connecting critical tiger breeding areas had been identified and published.
"If we lose an emblematic species like the Tiger, mankind will be acknowledging that it is prepared to lose any animal on the planet. This must not be allowed to happen," Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UNODC told the conference adding that "by our actions we must show that we have the capacity, the ability and the commitment to protect other species living on this planet."