One of the primary
prerequisites of good wildlife management is the deployment of rapid
response units at key points, which should be geared to tackle sudden
emergencies that may crop up at any time in our national parks or
wildlife sanctuaries. Most of these emergencies have their genesis in
cases arising out of man-animal conflicts, which have tended to increase
with shrinking wild habitats, and encroachments into forests by the
burgeoning human population living on peripheral areas.
wildlife management agencies were recently found wanting in two recent
incidents which occurred almost simultaneously – one in Bijnore forest
division of Uttar Pradesh and the second in the Rajaji national park in
In the first case, a
young leopard was found trapped in a wire noose set up by a poacher in
the forests of Bijnore district. Considering that the leopard was alive
when discovered, it is obvious that the noose was not fatal, and all
that was immediately required was to immobilise him with a dart, and set
him loose. But darting needs a tranquilizer gun, which was not available
with the department at that time. By the time it was procured,
sufficient time had elapsed for the leopard to injure himself in his
struggle to get free, and that necessitated him to be transported to
Lucknow for veterinary attention. Coupled with the injuries that he
sustained in the trap, the trauma of transportation from Bijnore to
Lucknow in a truck was enough to kill him by the time he arrived.
In the second incident
that occurred on the night of 24-25 January, a train hit an elephant
calf on the railway line between Haridwar and Motichur railway stations
in Kharkhari beat of Rajaji national park. The impact of the accident
did not kill the calf immediately, but tossed him next to the railway
line, injured and immobilised. The distraught mother elephant refused to
budge from his side, and all efforts to distract her by noise or a water
cannon remained futile.
Again, what was needed
here was to tranquillize her, so that a vet could approach the calf, and
attend to his injuries. However, in this case too, the tranquilizer gun
was unavailable since the Wildlife Institute of India vet – the only
person who could have been called on to dart the elephant, was out of
town with the gun, to perform duty at the Republic Day parade in Delhi
in which elephants and other animals were participating. In the absence
of any other wildlife trained vet in the Rajaji national park, vital
time was lost and the calf succumbed to his injuries.
Both these incidents are
indicative of the urgent need for the forest departments of both states
to review the response time that they take to handle wildlife crises
that arise in their respective spheres of control.
The state of Uttaranchal,
with its valued possession of huge forest tracts, more than 100 tigers,
several hundred leopards and elephants, should not dither in procuring
trained wildlife vets and an adequate number of tranquilizer guns to
meet such eventualities in the future.
Closer home, the events
leading to the death of that leopard trapped in Bijnore, and more
recently the death of the chimpanzee in the Lucknow zoo, are stark
reminders that we still have a very long way to go.