Chat Archives
Chat on "Man vs Tiger-Can Science help?" dated July 15, 2012
  • Susan Sharma: Welcome to IWC chat on "Man vs Tiger-Can Science help?
  • Susan Sharma: The moderator Dr. M D Madhusudan is a wildlife biologist. He is interested in understanding the scope and limits to reconciling human concerns of growth and livelihood with the goals of wildlife conservation.
  • Susan Sharma: Welcome Dr.MD Madhusudan
  • M D Madhusudan: Thanks, Susan. I look forward to the chat this evening.
  • manish trivedi: hi
  • Susan Sharma: Hello Manish
  • M D Madhusudan: Hi Manish
  • manish trivedi: hello
  • manish trivedi: its still loading how can i select chat room
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Good Evening, Everybody1
  • M D Madhusudan: Good evening, Sandeep.
  • manish trivedi: hello susanji
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: it is good to be back with Susan again for some stimulating chat!!
  • manish trivedi: thnx for guide me to join this site
  • Susan Sharma: Can we start with a brief introdnto the subject, Dr.MD
  • manish trivedi: what r u doing for conservation here ?
  • manish trivedi: or in field ?
  • ritu sharma: hello all
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Please begin
  • M D Madhusudan: Ok. What is clearly undeniable is that in a human-dominated world, there is less and less space for the tiger. The range of factors that have led the tiger to such a precarious state are varied indeed.
  • M D Madhusudan: Of those factors, science can help understand and deal with some... what are those and how can science help?
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: I know that, but what is the solution! the tiger sits at the top of the food chain!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Unless there is a ecosystem centric conservation plan and action in place, there is no hope!
  • M D Madhusudan: Sandeep, it may help for us to re-articulate even a familiar problem... you ask what is the solution, but can you say what you think is the problem?
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: The major problem begins with the degradation and fragmentation of the tiger habitat!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: leaving far less space for the tiger to survive!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: the next problem is poaching!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: the next major issue is eco tourism!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: finally the total lack of political will!
  • M D Madhusudan: Sure, the loss, fragmentation and degradation of habitats is definitely a serious concern. And so are poaching and ecotourism. Can we take them up one by one and take a closer look?
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: please do, I want to get into this most seriously!
  • M D Madhusudan: Ah, yes, let's get to the lack of political will after we've looked more closely at the issues you mentioned...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: I already work as an undercover wildlife photojournalist in Kaziranga and Jaldapara!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: how do you propose to address the first problem??
  • M D Madhusudan: Habitat loss and fragmentation are processes that are linked. When you lose a chunk of habitat, you end up fragmenting what remains. But degradation is rather different. First, where do you think the loss of habitats is happening?
  • M D Madhusudan: And why?
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Inside the core areas first and later in the buffer zones of Kaziranga, at least, because that is where I am centred!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Core areas are those which are deep inside the forest close to the River Brahmaputra!
  • M D Madhusudan: Historically, we're lost a lot of wildlife habitat (not just the tiger's) to agricultural expansions and to development projects. This trend continues.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Flooding and erosion remain recurrent problems there!
  • M D Madhusudan: We, as urban Indians, may say we don't play a part in agricultural expansions, but we surely can't shrug off responsibility for the dams, highways, mines that have gobbled up wildlife habitats.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: What you say is true, but the point of view does not apply to all the forest areas in India!
  • Susan Sharma: Core area degradation-can you explain more Sandeep for us who are not familiar with the terrain
  • M D Madhusudan: Loss of habitats in the Brahmaputra floodplains to annual flooding is a rather different situation... it is a natural factor, but gievn that Kaziranga has become isolated, this is a serious concern now.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Without dams, large areas remain under water! Or are gobbled up by the mighty Brahmaputra in Kaziranga!
  • M D Madhusudan: To get back to a broader point i was trying to make...
  • Susan Sharma: Mahi and Ritu which is the tiger habitat you are familiar with?
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: the river changes course almost every other year! How on earth will science help here?
  • M D Madhusudan: Science can surely not help in such a case, but it might help us understand patterns of flooding-related habitat loss and help manage in the face of this continuing factor that is beyond all of us...
  • M D Madhusudan: Sandeep, I wanted to quickly round up the factors you mentioned. Please bear with me for a minute...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Fragmentation and degradation in such a situation are two related yet distinct features!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: alright Doctor!
  • M D Madhusudan: Degradation of habitats happen when habitats are not lost wholesale like when a dam submerges a vast tract of forest or a mine tears up the land...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: go ahead, take your time!
  • M D Madhusudan: it happens when habitats are compromised in small ways but by large numbers... for example, the removal of firewood from remaining habitats, or grazing by domestic livestock in areas important for wild herbivores...
  • M D Madhusudan: Each person, in such cases, is deriving a very modest benefit, but the demographic base of such consumers is so vast that it adds up into a serious force that can degrade habitats over time
  • M D Madhusudan: Poaching is more straightforward. It is a 'wrong' thing done by 'bad' people. There are laws to stop it. Perhaps they are poorly implemented, but we don't disagree that this is more straightforward to stop
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Grazing by domestic livestock gives rise to 2 major issues, one of disease and the other of easy prey killing!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Both of which are disastrous for the tiger, either one way or another!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: but I still dont see how science will help? Please show me how?
  • M D Madhusudan: The most serious problem I think we face is when achieving development which urban India wants and securing the livelihood of poor people--both of these are desirable and good for our society--start to hurt wildlife conservation. How do we prioritise between these two social priorities and conservation?
  • M D Madhusudan: It is not easy, and hence, the inability to act clearly... or as you put it, the lack of political will.
  • M D Madhusudan: Ok, in this situation, where and how can science help?
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: We prioritise between them through education and political will! One is easy, the other is very difficult!
  • M D Madhusudan: To me, science can help in the diagnosis of problems
  • M D Madhusudan: Then, science can also help in seeing if our so-called solutions work.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: I am not a political leader, so education of politicians is to a large extent ineffective!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Doctor, you keep harping about science, good! But show me a clear cut path!
  • M D Madhusudan: It could, to a limited extent, help design solutions, but surely, it is not the job of science, but that of politics to make things happen.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: How does science diagnose our problems?
  • M D Madhusudan: Science can help answer the question of why tiger populations are declining. Which among two factors is a bigger threat to tigers?
  • M D Madhusudan: And even before that, in helping us assess where tigers are present and in estimating their populations...
  • M D Madhusudan: So, I actually think science has a rather modest, but often overstated role to play in actual wildlife conservatino. To me, conservation is much more of a socio-political process than a scientific one
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Even if we do get an estimate of their numbers in the wild, what then?
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Exactly, Doc! Now you have hit the nail on the head!
  • M D Madhusudan: Then it comes back to our values as a society... do we care that tiger numbers are small and perhaps declining. That science can tell us, but if we should act, and how, is something science cannot tell us anything about... it is a moral choice we must make as a society...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Science is there to help to a very limited extent only!
  • M D Madhusudan: yes, as I said earlier, it has a modest, but often overstated role
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: So where are we now?
  • M D Madhusudan: With relation to tiger conservation today, I think the most difficult questions are not scientific. They are political.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Absolutely, Doctor!
  • M D Madhusudan: I think science has a very important and responsible role in that it can inform political debate and decision making
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: And politics is something which I don't understand at all, neither head nor tail nor body!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Debate and decision making has been going on for the last two and half decades! What is the result, Doc??
  • Susan Sharma: What you say about the tiger will be true - But in the case of smaller endangered mammals science has a larger role to play, I believe?
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Are you even vaguely aware of the fact that most of the senior forest officers ()
  • M D Madhusudan: Science can't tell us if the tiger is less important than a dam that will irrigate millions of acres of agriculture or more important than the need of a poor Indian to get firewood to cook his familiy's next meal
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Are you even vaguely aware of the fact that most of the IFS officers and the naturalists are always at loggerheads!!
  • M D Madhusudan: Sandeep, yes debate and decision making have led us nowhere, you say, but neither has asking, 'now what' or just sitting and wishing for miracles of political will to happen...
  • M D Madhusudan: Yes
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Why? I will tell you why!
  • M D Madhusudan: In a democracy, debate is a crucial way to move forward. It makes every decision, no matter hwo simple, a long-drawn and messy affair...
  • M D Madhusudan: but in the end, it is a form of governance we've chosen to give ourselves, and if we go with it, we also choose to go with its consequences... we have to work with what we have.
  • M D Madhusudan: Susan, to address your question, I think the issue is similar whether it is a small or large animal
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: While the majority of IFS officers are concerned about wildlife conservation, they are more concerned about saving their retirement plans!
  • M D Madhusudan: But yes, given we know so little about our lesser fauna, science perhaps has a bigger role in building our understanding of what exists and is at stake...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: hence the naturalists are never eye to eye with the forest officers!
  • M D Madhusudan: Yes, Sandeep, these are things we have to take on board and see how we can make changes for the better... complainign about these things never has helped.
  • M D Madhusudan: Ritu, Mahi, did you have any comments or question?
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: U r rite, doctor! but that is issue which always clouds all these debates and decision making processes!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: I have myself been a part of these debates on quite a few occasions!
  • M D Madhusudan: That's great... and to remain engaged is the only way forward...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: With only a few IFS officers who are really concerned for the tiger!
  • ritu sharma: I agree with the views that these issues are more political than science..
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: yes but whatever work you do in wildife conservation, you have to identify at least one IFS officer who is ever willing to guide you all the time!
  • M D Madhusudan: Most conservationists and some scientists look to science to resolve problems that are beyond its scope.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: In my case I always have one IFS officer who is deeply concerned about wildlife !!
  • M D Madhusudan: That's nice.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: It is good and simultaneously it is very bad as well!
  • M D Madhusudan: Like development. Like livelihood security. Like conservation? :-)
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Like when you are carrying a price on your head - either dead or alive!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: That is the danger of working undercover!
  • M D Madhusudan: Yes.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: But you know you are doing something good for the future generations of your nation!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: And the deep rooted knowledge that by killing me, the vested interests are not going to win and shut out wildlife conservation!
  • M D Madhusudan: Very nice to see your commitment to what you do!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: But the IFS officer and the Forester at Kaziranga are always around to prove that I am NOT ALONE in my endeavour at all!
  • M D Madhusudan: Yes. Conservation is full of committed and sincere people. But, where it flounders is when it comes to *collective* action...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: U CAN READ MY COVER ARTICLE ON THE JULY 2012 ISSUE OF JUNGLE RHYTHMS ONLINE MAGAZINE and send me your judgement to
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: That goes for Susan Sharma as well!
  • Susan Sharma: Yes, certainly Sandeep
  • M D Madhusudan: Sure.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Your views are very important for me now and in the future!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: I am unsure what the Almighty God has in future for me!
  • M D Madhusudan: Are there any other questions or comments?
  • Susan Sharma: Thanks for a lively and thought provoking chat.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: It was very stimulating chatting with Dr. MD and Susan Sharma! Good Night!
  • M D Madhusudan: Thank you, Susan. Thanks, Sandeep, Ritu and Mahi.
  • M D Madhusudan: Good night. Over and out!
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