Wildlife biologist Ullas Karanth on Tiger
Q: What's wrong with the concept of sustainable use and the idea of financing projects for local people to make money from the forests, and in turn protect the animals?
A: It's naïve. People and tigers have never coexisted harmoniously.
They compete for land, protein, resources. In a country like India where there are so many people and so little land, sustainable development is actually a recipe for wiping out the protected areas.
If you want tigers, you can't have people sweeping through the reserves cutting down trees, gathering forest products, hunting for protein and creating gardens that fragment natural areas.
Moreover, you definitely should not be paying forestry officials - charged with protecting wildlife - to do rural economic development.
If you do it, their mission drifts toward development and the wildlife conservation part gets lost.
To protect wildlife, you have to do the harder thing, which is set aside some areas where human activities are reduced or eliminated. At present, about 5 percent of the country is designated as protected. But I estimate that 75 percent of that "protected"
land has been compromised by human activity. This needs to be halted.
Q: Do you think the Indian tiger can be saved?
A: Certainly. If there's the will. One thing that gives us a head start: India actually has more wild tigers than our neighbors. We won't need to reintroduce them. Also, tigers reproduce easily; they are not like pandas.
Also, I believe that there are aspects of Indian culture that can be mobilized for conservation. If you look at the Hindu religion, there's real guilt associated with the killing of an animal.
Another thing, at the core of our religion is the belief that man is a part of nature. This supports the idea that wild animals have a right to survive.
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