Whither Goest our Tiger?

February 22, 2008 at 10:49 pm | Posted in Animal Census, asian elephant, bamboo, biodiversity, bioinversity, biosphere, Bos gaurus, census, deforestation, disingenuous, ecosystem, Elephant, Elephas, endangered species, extinction, ficus, forest, forest department, forest strata, Gaur, habitat, hardwood, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, IUCN, Leopard, Ministry of Environment and Forests, mismanaged forests, MOEF, monoculture, niche, Panthera, paw print plaster cast, phototrap, poaching, rosewood, Sariska, scats, strangler fig, teak, Tiger, tiger population, tree, tribal, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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vanishing tiger

As early as a couple of years ago (especially after the IUCN study) it was obvious that India’s forests had reached a crisis point. Our top predator, the Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris) was at a population nadir. The known numbers of tigers had been suddenly found to be less than half of what it should be. Even more frighteningly, in certain important tiger zones like Sariska, the tiger has completely disappeared. The extinction of our tigers stares us in the face.

Those of us who frequent the forests and who regularly participate in animal censuses have known for quite some time that the forests are deteriorating and that we have been steadily losing the battle to preserve and protect what very little is left.

Disingenuous cover-up:

The tigers were never there in the first place! The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) and their minions in “Project Tiger” now want us to believe that poor counting technique is to blame for an earlier inflated statistic. Now that proper camera traps have been placed and things are being done in a more “scientific manner”, we should all acknowledge that the tiger popultion has not actually fallen – that the population always was less than half of what we had projected…

It’s a lie because:

1) Long term forest dwellers, the tribals and the Forest Department personnel in each forest, get to know their animals very well indeed. Larger animals like the elephants and certainly both the leopards and the tigers in each of our forests are easily recognisable and identifiable as individuals.

2) The census methods used in the past, though rough and ready, are yet certainly scientific enough. When censuses are based on physical evidence such as scats and plaster casts of paw prints then there is absolutely no way that someone can claim that the populations so determined are in inferior to that of phototrapping. I would argue that in fact the phototrap is a ridiculously unscientific way to determine absolute populations when compared to the older methods!

In fact we are left to surmise that if one takes the trouble to go through the physical evidence that had been gathered over so many years of painstaking censusing, the conclusion that our tiger populations have long been declining steadily and quite drastically will have to be reached. The problem then lies with the MOEF/state Forest Departments’ perennial habit of inflating the actual counts in order to satisfy the powers that be, and in order to pacify the many and vociferous critics of the government’s many inadequacies in this regard.

In other words they have been cheating on the numbers for quite some time, and quite systematically too, and now that they have finally been caught out, the easiest recourse has been to point the finger at the supposedly faulty methodology of the past.

But why has the tiger declined and is it only the tiger that is in trouble?

A case in point in the present instance is the debate on allowing forest dwellers to continue to occupy their niches within the confines of the many forests of our land. Persuasive voices say that here is a major factor in the degredation of our prime habitats.

There are many other factors too. Take a look at the great number of private estates that sit squarely within our forest areas. They are certainly doing their bit to destroy the forests around them for one thing, with their use of fertilizers and pesticides and for another the exploitation, contamination, and pollution of the forests’ precious water resources are all having a disastrous impact. Then we have our MOEF’s penchant for suddenly granting mining and even forage/fodder licenses in our few remaining forest areas. They will then even come up with environmental clearances for these absolutely destructive projects and all in the name of ‘development’!

But these issues, though important, are not yet the worst of the culprits. The forests as a whole are under great threat due to lopsided and simplistic mismanagement over many decades. We know that our hardwood fig “strangling”trees are being poached along with our sandalwood. Trees such as the rosewood and mahogany are simply never seen within our ‘Reserve’ or National Park Forests. If we can’t protect these huge trees that are so difficult to transport out (where the take per tree is less than 200,000 rupees now for the illegal logger) , then where is the question of our being able to protect our leopards and tigers? A tiger will earn a poacher not less than a million rupees and all that it takes is a well placed wire trap or some poisoned bait – and a buyer.

In other words, if we cannot protect our trees, there’s no way that we can claim to be adequately protecting our precious tigers. Combine the loss to poaching with the ridiculously bioinverse policy of planting large tracts of monocultures of “economically important” species such as teak or bamboo – and of course these then have to be harvested – and you do indeed begin to have the recipe for the disaster that now faces us.

Once the forest’s precious tree diversity is gone, the forest itself gets degraded and becomes a poorer and poorer habitat that will soon not be able to support top predators like the tiger. Biodiversity is undermined at all levels. Other critical animal populations, notably the elephant and bison, will then have to start wandering out of the ‘protected’ zones in search of food and water, and that will lead to increasing incidences of man-animal conflicts in the forest’s surroundings.

Too Little is protected

One final point for today’s debate: The earmarked, and presently “protected”, territory is very inadequate. Tigers roam over a huge areas of range. They spread out so that they do not much have to encounter one another. I have seen two wild tigers while hiking in scrub jungle, well outside the confines of the nearest reserve forest. Clearly we need to expand the buffer zones around the core areas of our remaining tiger populations. We also have to eventually find the funding to fence the forests and forest denizens in (and the poachers out). In the meantime, if we can start by adequately expanding the buffer areas and perhaps even provide linking corridors between nearly contiguous stretches of forest, this in itself will start to make a fantastic difference!

Environmentalists and forest watchers who care and who have raised their voices of protest have been silenced by committees of armchair scientists, most of whom have never even seen a real live wild tiger to speak of. It’s up to us now, the common folks of this great land of the erstwhile Royal Bengal Tiger, to keep the issues alive and to make the careless of officialdom accountable for the precious heritage that they are allowing to be destroyed before our very eyes.


Let your voice be heard.forest strata

Make the protection of our forests a major issue of national importance.

Make a note of whom the current union and state ministers of Forests and Environment happen to be, and track their performance and the quality of their decision making very carefully. At the first sign of bad decisions, let the concerned party know that the mis-steps have been noted and will be issues to be discussed by the public (thats us!).

Publicise (write to the editor or to an investigative journalist of your local paper), document, and protest each and every incident of forest abuse that you see or find out about.

Get personally involved; participate in censuses, take up projects to help forest tribals become independent of the forests, talk to your friends about the plight of our forests and encourage one another to become activists for the sake of saving the little that still remains.

Teach your children well, for the future is in their hands…

This was first posted at Ponnvandu, and has now been slightly modified here. The issues are broad and of great importance so I’ve posted most of that article here.

AUTISM, the latest in the LD series at PONNVANDU

October 30, 2007 at 9:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The latest article in the series on Learning Disabilities is up at Ponnvandu. Click on this link:

LD-4 Autism,

Earlier posts in the series are :


New Post at Ponnvandu

April 22, 2007 at 2:06 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Follow the link to an important new post on


August 15, 2006 at 6:33 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

!!! INDIA !!!

The NEW "Chimpy" Troupe in D.C.

June 7, 2006 at 9:25 am | Posted in alpha male, bonobo, CheneyMeToARiceBush, chimpanzee, chimpy, Dickied Rice Bush, extinction, George Dick and Rummy, Jane Goodall, maximus, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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America’s sense of humour is making a comeback, and in honour of that one of our local (Indian) zoos, which hosts a bunch of chimps, has nicknamed the three leaders : George, Dick and Rummy !

But seriously this is such an insult to the real chimps. Endangered in the wild due to habitat loss and hunting, with far too many in captivity and used for anything from food and medical research to house pets, the chimpanzee is fast following the bonobo’s road to extinction.

Hardly lovable creatures, adult chimps can be very dangerous and have been known to prey on human infants too if given a chance. Perhaps that’s why the alpha male in that zoo has been dubbed Rummy!

Chimps are also capable of deep thought and of course are very intelligent. I would request my American friends to find a new nickname for your own current alpha male – chimpy is just not acceptable to chimp lovers! Perhaps “maximus” alone will do?

The fellow blogggers that set this off are:
huffingtonpost.com: I-know-a-secret-that-george_b_doesn’t and http://tribes.tribe.net/chimpy (Chimpy McFlightsuit)

And for more on REAL CHIMPS, check out these links:
NatGeo article
and especially this one for more on Jane Goodall’s work:

Do Poetry

May 13, 2006 at 9:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Does it have to rhyme? No, all it has to do is to connect – and hopefuly, let the reader feel and think something of what the poet was experiencing. That was the gist of what I learned about poetry while wading thru a few courses in literature that I took more out of curiosity than anything else.

That was all of 30 years ago! The lifelong love of poetry that resulted started largely because of the enthusiasm and commitment of my teachers, and has never left…

Writing poetry is another kettle of fish altogether. I have, on occasion, attempted the impossible and fortunately have not foisted my productions on any other than those nearest and dearest – who will (have to?) put up with anything!

Still, for those so tempted, please don’t get taken in by flattery. Follow the link embedded in the title and do have a good laugh. All of David Taub’s early submissions (on this theme) can be found at : http://windpub.com/literary.scams/wergle.htm and they will really crack you up.

I was pleased to discover that one of my mentors was still teaching literature / poetry and what was even more surprising was that he still remembers me – I think I took all of two full courses from this remarkable teacher and I was not an English major in the first place and certainly not one of those “memorably brilliant” students – now that is dedication!

A very big Thank You, Dr. Jon Kamholtz.

Poetic Rockin’

April 17, 2006 at 3:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Rogers and Hammerstein gave us unforgettable musicals and along the way also wrote some powerful poetry. The connection between poetry and music is very strong. After all both are inherently metrical, speaking directly to the heart and soul.

Here’s a sample of one very well known, and one less remembered song from “Carousel”.

If I Loved You

If I loved you,
Time and again I would try to say
All I’d want you to know.
If I loved you,
Words wouldn’t come in an easy way
Round in circles I’d go!
Longin’ to tell you,
But afraid and shy,

I’d let my golden chances pass me by!
Soon you’d leave me,Off you would go in the mist of day,
Never, never to know how I loved you…If I loved you.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

When you walk through a storm
Keep your chin up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.

Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown.

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone,
You’ll never walk alone.

The Beatles were great and the Lennon/McCartney team shouldered most of the burden of composing.
They too wrote some powerful poetry.

From Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.
Cellophane flowers of yellow and green,
Towering over your head.
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes,
And she’s gone.Lucy in the sky with diamonds,
Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies,
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers,
That grow so incredibly high.

Lennon and McCartney were always inspired but occasionally Harrison contributed a little gem.

Here comes the sun,
Here comes the sun
And I say
It’s alright…

Those of us that are old enough, will recall that there was a close friendship between George Harrison and Eric Clapton; “While My Guitar gently Weeps” was a direct collaboration but otherwise too their lives and music intertwined and produced a lot of sometimes painful yet always magical music.

Do you remember Cream, Led Zeppeliin, The Who and Woodstock in those crazy days when rock was it? Probably, for many, today what still resonates even more than the nostalgia are the sad tales of those that crashed and burned along the way, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon, Pete Ham, John Bonham… Many of the leading artists of that age who did survive will fall into the “near miss” category since they seem to have just barely outlived their superstardom. Some (a very few) even managed to retain their superstar status like Clapton, McCartney, Paul Anderson and Roger Waters. And yet, what really remains (and it always will) are the lyrics.

Like “Layla” and “Bell Bottom Blues”, one of the great songs that sprang from the Clapton – Harrison friendship was:

It’s late in the evening. She’s wondering what clothes to wear.
She puts on her makeup and brushes her long blond hair
And then she asks me
“Do I look alright?”
And I say
“Yes, you look wonderful tonight.”

We go to a party
And everyone turns to see
This beautiful lady
That’s walking around with me
And then she asks me
“Do you feel alright?”
And I say
“Yes I feel wonderful tonight.”

I feel wonderful
Because I see
The love lighting in your eyes
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don’t realize,
How much I love you
It’s time to go home now and
I‘ve got an aching head.
So I give her the car keys
And she helps me to bed
And then I tell her
As I turn out the light
“You are wonderful tonight
Oh my darling,
You were wonderful tonight.”

And just a reminder of one of the many who burned a bit too bright:

“Purple haze all in my eyes,

uhh Don’t know if it’s day or night

You got me blowin’, blowin’ my mind

Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time? “

Can’t fit much in on Dylan or Simon & Garfunkel here, not to mention CSNY -all good poets in their own right. Instead we can talk about poetic folk rockin somewhere down the road…

Might is RIGHT

April 11, 2006 at 6:16 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Realpolitik argues that there can be no ethics in international affairs (nor in politics of any ilk). Politicians believe that they can always make a majority of the people believe that whatever they say is the truth. But, I don’t believe that humankind is so predictable.

Just “another brick in the wall” is how Pink Floyd put it, as easy as leading a flock of sheep…For example, our journalists and social commentators are all very certain that GWB’s new “lowest rating ever” is largely due to the continuing flow of negative news from Iraq. By implication, if Iraq were calm, GWB could have been considered a successful president!

Is that really all that there is? “The winner is always right”, may be a classic neocon thought but have the public believed this? I really don’t think that “the public” is as dumb as the media that serves them, believes.

Democracy in Iraq means the Shia domination of an important and strategic oil source. Furthermore, one could reasonably expect an axis of power to develop with the philosophical linking of two powerful neighbors, Iraq-Iran. Which truly is the stuff of the neocon-jewish lobby’s worst nightmares. Knowing this President’s penchant for using leaks to accelerate his spin, one could see the timely “leak” of plans to bomb Iran as a nice way to divert attention from the Iraq imbroglio. One might also suspect that our public may even begin to question why Iran having enrichment is any different from Pakistan, India and Israel who have been clandestinely developing these capabilities from the 1950s on and all of whom have both the bombs and the “delivery systems” well in place.

In the final analysis, the Katrina debacle probably did GWB more damage politically than the “far away” war in Iraq.

Pragmatism aside, doesn’t one central question get consistently missed? Have the words “right” and “truth” lost their meaning for society? Thank God that however twisted or spun, the truth remains, and might can never mean the same as right.

AND Health for ALL ?

March 25, 2006 at 9:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“Er, where are we, exactly?” – Don’t you see, that will be our cue to set up a government body to direct clinical practice. Initially, of course, with relatively few guidelines. Most doctors probably wouldn’t even notice that they were no longer autonomous. At first. Sir Bartholomew had stood and was preparing to leave. As he pulled on his gloves he continued, “The important thing is, doctors would have to practise according to government instructions. Then it would simply be a case of changing the guidelines so that by degrees they become less orientated towards simplistic notions of what patients need and more orientated towards what government can afford.” Doctors’ autonomy – satire on the UK’s National Health Service – British Medical Journal, Dec 19, 1998 by David Orchard The world famous British NHS – National Health Service seems to be on the rocks.

In a not-so-surprising development, America’s closest equivalent – the VA (Veterans Administration) health network is also heading North.

In both cases, these outstandingly effective health initiatives are being systematically torpedoed by their respective governments.

If you value your health and the health of future generations, don’t let the pharma – insurance – neocon lobby win!

*** The patient refused autopsy.

Troubles Unheard of

March 19, 2006 at 4:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Having been born and brought up in Africa, the fact that the wolrld’s worst and least reported human disasters are all African was a rude shock. I fondly remember peace and humanism as the face of the Africa that I love. It brings to mind the title of a famous African tale “Cry, the Beloved Country”.

1) War in Democratic Republic of Congo that has claimed at least 10 times as many lives as the December tsunami.”It’s the worst humanitarian tragedy since the Holocaust,” said John O’Shea, chief executive of Irish relief agency GOAL. “The greatest example on the planet of man’s inhumanity to man.” Almost half of those polled–including leftwing intellectual Noam Chomsky–nominated Congo, citing the brutality of an ugly, tangled war that has killed nearly 4 million people since 1998.”The human suffering is mind-boggling,” said Lindsey Hilsum, international editor for Britain’s Channel 4 News. “The wickedness and cruelty of the armed men who kill and maim and rape defies belief.” The images that emerge are too horrible to print.

2) The details of northern Uganda’s 18-year war, ranked second in the AlertNet poll, are just as shocking. More than 20,000 children have been abducted by a cult-like rebel group and forced to serve as soldiers and sex slaves, while most of the population in the conflict zone have been forced from their homes into squalid camps. “Like many people, I didn’t have any idea of the scale of this conflict” says Hollywod star Helen Mirren.

3) Sudan, where Africa’s longest-running civil war has raged for two decades in the south and almost two years of atrocities in the western Darfur region have raised the spectre of genocide. “Darfur has slipped from the front pages, but the situation there is again going from terrible to being absolutely horrendous,” U.N. relief coordinator Jan Egeland said. In addition the situation in Western Africa and in Zimbabwe are threatening to wreak even more havoc from statrvation and threatened civil wars.

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