Protecting the environment with intelligence

From tigers to rabbits … Debbie Banks reports

Copyright istock.And so, as we slink silently from Year of the Tiger and bound into the Year of the Rabbit, we pause to reflect on whether the last twelve months have been truly auspicious for the great cat, have we turned a corner, can we look to 2022 and the next Year of the Tiger with hope?

The Global Tiger Recovery Program, adopted in St Petersburg last year by the governments of countries where tigers live, sets out the broad brush stroke actions they are committed to, in order to double the wild tiger population by 2022. Last year, we reported on how many of these promises have been made before, and already we are starting to see cracks in this road to recovery.

The beleaguered Minister of Environment & Forests for India, Jairam Ramesh, constantly has to defend forests from industrial encroachment. Having boldly declared no-go, hands-off forest areas to stop the coal miners from ripping them up, today he was forced by louder voices in the cabinet to concede a significant amount. Where was the Prime Minister during these cabinet decisions? What of his government’s commitment in the St Petersburg Declaration to tiger and biodiversity-compatible management of forest corridors and landscapes?

Credit Mike VickersMeanwhile in Burma, the authorities are hunting down the activist who blew the whistle on the colonisation of forest by a private corporation in the Hukawng Valley, which was only recently declared the world’s largest tiger reserve. Villagers have been turfed out to make way for sugar cane plantations. How does this fulfil the commitment in the St Petersburg Declaration to engage local communities, let alone ensure the security of tiger habitat?

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so at EIA we’re baking a cake. The ingredients are all the positive and negative decisions governments make following the St Petersburg meeting, all the incidents of forest rescue or forest destruction, poaching and trade, convictions, intelligence sharing or lack thereof. If you want to help us, feel free to email us with verified reports of the good and the bad, and lets see what we can turn out.

My own tiger guru, Valmik Thapar, recently gave a talk at Asia House in London about the tiger in Indian art. Really, he was talking about the Cult of the Tiger; of the value and role of the tiger in hearts and minds, expressed through rituals, dance, paintings and sculptures dating back centuries.

Perhaps the Year of the Tiger, symbolic of bravery and competitiveness helped the tiger jostle for position on the political agenda. Maybe the Year of the Rabbit, symbolic of creativity, compassion and sensitivity will help us touch the values of those who live with tigers and reignite a cult that can save the cat from extinction?

A combination of the two might be good, and thanks go to my colleague Debby Ng, for sharing reference to such a symbolic creature, the Sumatran Striped Rabbit.


Debbie Banks

Debbie Banks

Senior Campaigner

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4 Responses

  1. Hi Debbie.

    You’ve cited it pretty correctly about the cracks in this road to recovery program, and we can strongly say that the St. Petersberg GTRP was farce, an utter failure. The governments of the Tiger populated countries can’t give a damn about the status of this magnificent animal, and I am beginning to cast my doubts on the intelligence of these big-wig leaders regarding their understanding of eco-system diversity, the balance in nature and this fragile food-chain system.

    In India, Jairam Ramesh sounds like a brains-over-brawns fellow, but, at the end of the day, he is a political puppet. I know that being Minister of Env & Forest he has all the power in this country to act to what he says. He just needs to convince the PM who is another nincompoop (I haven’t seen him giving a speech without reading from a paper). But by the virtue of his political status Jairam Ramesh must do something significant, ofcourse which is cause-worthy and save my Tigers.

    Also, wanted to bring into attention the status of Tigers in northern Uttarakhand state of India where they have been gunning down Tigers in the name of man-eaters and no power on earth is able to curb it. Which is quite surprising. Does it tell me that there is no scientific technique to (a) recognize a man-eater, (b) capture and isolate it without harming him much, (c) either putting him in a animal rescue center/zoo OR back into the wild? What are the policy makers doing?

    I have these questions clouding all over my head and I am seeking answers from the experts. Guess it’s my Right to Information and I must have it.

  2. Ameet Shelar says:

    U r an angel..tigers in India luv u..i m big fan of u..u r the best.

    • Debbie Banks says:

      Thank you Ameet!

      We love that you love tigers and love what we are doing to contribute to their survival!

      Best wishes from the EIA Tiger Team

  3. Fauna Tomlinson says:

    Debbie, you are invaluable thank you for your
    strength and courage.
    Have you heard about the use of UAV’s
    Unmanned aerial vehicles for wildlife research
    and protection. A basic eye in the sky that deters
    illegal activity and captures video of illegal
    activity while attaining valuable information
    on wildlife -Tigers.
    I have lots of info, ideas and connections – please
    contact me. Let’s get UAV’s up in the sky ASAp.
    They are hand held , affordable- easy to use.
    An invaluable piece of technology- not just for the military
    any more. Many are in use for wildlife protection
    and research.

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