Website by AQEEL FAROOQI  



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Problems of identification of camera-trapped tigers
Indian Wildlife - challenges in the new millennium
The greying of India
On the road to extinction
A Tribute to Rumbha - the elephant  
State development project threatens state bird - Sarus
Shahtoosh ban gains momentum worldwide
The road to disaster
Killing nilgais in the name of crop protection
Warring NGO's may spell doom for the tiger
Where have all the sparrows gone?
Cuckoos that fly out of crows' nests
Corbett park woes continue to mount
A question on post mortem examinations in the wild
Is it time to 'cry wolf' again?
Lifting of US sanctions may boost wildlife conservation
Migratory waterfowl may be hit by war in Afghanistan
UP wetlands to provide improved habitat to waterfowl
Anthrax as a potent wildlife killer
Man-elephant conflict takes heavy toll
Demoiselle cranes fly to safety in India
How long lasting are conservation victories
Fake tiger skins : a knotty disguise
Who cares for the wild here anyway?
A tribute to Charger - the long living tiger
Draining of wetlands threatening wildlife
Wildlife management needs rapid response units
Dudhwa loses another tiger
Indian Wildlife Board meets after five years

 WILDLIFE WINDOW | Aqeel Farooqi

Hindustan Times, Lucknow | September 19, 2001


Is it time to ‘cry wolf’ again?

When the cherubic Little Red Riding Hood made her escape from the snapping jaws of the big bad wolf masquerading as her grandmother, it was inevitable that the dread value of the wolf generated by the fable, would continue to haunt the minds of little children even after they had grown up to adulthood. Later, with imaginations having been fuelled by the choicest supernatural stories of werewolves and their variant local forms, it is no wonder that the wolf became such an object of hatred that it was virtually eliminated in many areas of the world where it used to be found. Not helping its cause was the confounding fact that it was a predator that often came into conflict with man by lifting poultry and livestock during harsh climatic times of prey scarcity.

In India, the wolf (Canis lupus) is an endangered species listed in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act. It is surely a debatable issue whether the decline in its population was the result of sustained elimination, or due to the loss of its habitat to the ever-burgeoning agricultural activity in the country. But chances are that it was a combination of both these factors that pushed the wolf into the endangered category. The increase in agriculture activity must have manifested in decreasing wolf habitats and falling population levels, while the other effect would have been an increase in man-wolf conflicts, resulting in further downsizing of wolf populations due to elimination of aberrant packs.

However, the wolf seems to have made an appearance in the state. The recent report of child-killing by a wolf in a village near Rae Bareli is disturbing in the sense that it brings to mind a spate of similar incidents that happened in eastern Uttar Pradesh during 1996-97 when many children were injured or killed in wolf attacks. One also remembers that the childhood fear lurking in the subconscious minds and imaginations of the simple village folk affected by those incidents, gave rise to so many illusionary villains like the ‘manhai’, a man who transformed into a wolf in order to satiate his desire to eat a succulent child.

The media fallout of those events was instrumental in wildlife scientists and forest officials making an in-depth study of the problem. Dr YV Jhala, faculty member of the Wildlife Institute of India and an expert on wolves, conducted a research in the affected areas during March to October 1996, in order to ascertain the identity of the predator responsible for these attacks, as well as to determine the causes for this aberrant behaviour, in case it was indeed wolves that were to be blamed.

During the course of the study, about 70 cases of attacks causing injury and death to children were taken into account. Sites of attacks, remains of killed children, autopsy reports and the evidences like hair and pugmarks left by the predator were examined. Data pertaining to location, date and time of attacks were analysed to determine the area of operation and their chorological trend. The availability of both wild and domestic prey-base in the area of study was used as an indicator to assess the levels to which children of that area could become the target of wolf predation.

The study inferred that it was indeed a single wolf that was responsible for the attacks, the frequency of attack being one in three days, while the average rate of the victim being killed was once every five days. The reason why children were targeted was that most of them ranged between the ages of 4 months to 9 years, and were more vulnerable as compared to village livestock. Moreover, there was also clear indication of some form of neglect by the parents, which caused the children becoming easy targets.

Therefore, in view of the present case of the reported wolf attack, it would be a good idea to take a lesson from the past, and focus on creating awareness among the affected populace, so that they do not put down their guard, or become victims of wild rumours once again. Moreover, with the present Chief Wildlife Warden himself having being an active field campaigner when the previous wolf attacks occurred, it can safely be assumed that the Forest Department would have no problems in taking full control over the man-wolf conflict that has presented itself today.