Whither Wildlife?

Rapid pop­u­la­tion growth in the South Asian re­gion poses a great threat to wildlife, as nat­u­ral habi­tats are de­stroyed and hu­man pop­u­la­tions oc­cupy the space.

Southasia - - ANIMAL RIGHTS SOUTH ASIA - By S. Da­nial Alam S. Da­nial Alam is a free­lance con­trib­u­tor. He writes on so­cial and cul­tural is­sues.

In today’s world, how many peo­ple ac­tu­ally care about ex­tinct or en­dan­gered species? Hardly a few. Peo­ple rarely pay at­ten­tion to any is­sue un­less it af­fects them. This cold, ro­botic at­ti­tude to­wards wildlife has in­creased the mis­eries of the poor crea­tures man­i­fold. Such an ap­a­thetic ap­proach needs to be changed. But any change in pub­lic per­cep­tion and be­hav­ior to­wards wildlife de­mands a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the is­sue.

In the South Asian re­gion, many en­dan­gered an­i­mals are fast dis­ap­pear­ing due to ruth­less poach­ing. One such an­i­mal is the Asian ele­phant, which is be­ing killed in large num­bers for its ivory tusks and hide. It is be­lieved that the ivory of Asian ele­phants is far bet­ter in qual­ity than that of African ele­phants which is cre­at­ing an in­creas­ing de­mand for tusks of Asian ele­phants.

Re­search on the sub­ject blames poach­ing for the killing of 40 to 70 per­cent of male ele­phants. This is a fig­ure that should not be taken lightly.

Hides of ele­phants also have a high mon­e­tary value. As a re­sult, more and more ele­phants are be­ing killed as gov­ern­ments and wildlife pro­tec­tion de­part­ments turn a blind eye to the prob­lem. If nec­es­sary steps are not taken to put an end to this poach­ing, slo­gans such as “don’t let the sun set on the Asian ele­phant” will soon be­come echoes from the past, as they will only re­call poor de­ci­sions and re­grets.

Another fa­vorite tar­get of poach­ers is the Ben­gal Tiger which is killed for its skin and other body parts which are used to make tra­di­tional medicines in many Asian coun­tries. Found in parts of In­dia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myan­mar, the Ben­gal Tiger is also at the verge of ex­tinc­tion due to ex­ces­sive poach­ing.

When it comes to birds, Pak­istan is a fa­vorite hunt­ing ground for rare birds. Quail, pheas­ants, houbara bus­tards, black par­tridges, white par­tridges and ducks are the most sought-af­ter and the most hunted birds.

In many cases, the hunters are Arab princes from the Gulf states, who are is­sued hunt­ing per­mits by the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan. They are al­lowed to hunt in lo­ca­tions where the birds are found. Their hunt­ing meth­ods also vary and can be cruel at times as trained fal­cons are used to kill birds.

Although there are set bag lim­its for hunt­ing rare birds, the high and the mighty hardly fol­low them and are seem­ingly at lib­erty to flout rules at will.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port that ap­peared in a Pak­istani news­pa­per, in 2007 alone, 31 li­censees were al­lowed a limit of 200 hunts each. It can be safely as­sumed that a min­i­mum of 6200 birds were killed or trapped in that year.

Rapid pop­u­la­tion growth in South Asia also poses a ma­jor threat to wildlife, since wildlife habi­tats are de­stroyed as towns and cities spread. Hardly any care or con­cern is shown to pre­serve wildlife sanc­tu­ar­ies.

A highly ig­nored as­pect re­gard­ing an­i­mals is their use in cir­cuses and in fight­ing are­nas. In these so-called leisure ac­tiv­i­ties, the poor an­i­mals are forced to per­form dif­fi­cult, dan­ger­ous, and, at times, vi­o­lent tasks.

No one both­ers to think about the con­di­tions in which cir­cus an­i­mals are kept or cares about the meth­ods that are used to train them. What hap­pens to these an­i­mals once the show is over is another story. In most cases, cir­cus train­ers treat the poor crea­tures cru­elly. Also, cir­cus an­i­mals are not pro­vided with a healthy and ad­e­quate sup­ply of food and wa­ter. They are kept in cages, most of which are of the wrong size or the an­i­mals are chained up for long hours. Sev­eral coun­tries such as Bo­livia, Greece and Bel­gium have im­posed a ban on the use of an­i­mals in cir­cuses. In­dia is also con­sid­er­ing this op­tion.

While there may be other is­sues that peo­ple find more rel­e­vant and wor­thy of at­ten­tion, the im­por­tance of wildlife can­not be ig­nored. The me­dia needs to cre­ate aware­ness among the masses of is­sues such as poach­ing, mis­treat­ment of an­i­mals, hunt­ing of rare species of birds, de­for­esta­tion and other sim­i­lar prob­lems. In fact, much more, needs to be done – and soon – as time is run­ning out.

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