India has 16 per cent of the world’s population with only 2.4 percent of its land area.
There is much pressure on our natural resources including forests. In these times of increasing consumerism and nature- hostile activities, the forest-cover is depleting and deteriorating very fast. The conservation of wildlife which includes native plants and animals, depends on protection of forests. Wildlife is the direct product of the land resources and habitat conditions.
The neglect of forests moans the destruction of the wild animals. Wildlife, like we human beings, need food, water, and shelter. Destruction of forests, wetlands, marshes, points, grasslands etc. eliminates their sources of food, water and habitat. The National wildlife action Plan launched in 1983 provides the framework of strategy as well as programme for conservation of wildlife. The protected area network till 993 consisted of 75 national parks and 421 sanctuaries covering 4.5 per cent of the total geographical area, which was proposed to be increased to 5.1 per cent.
The wildlife protection Act, 1972 governs wildlife conservation and protection of endangered species. The Act prohibits trade in rare and endangered species. India is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered species of Wild Flora and Fauna.
Under this export or import of these endangered species is subject to strict control. Commercial exploitation such species is prohibited. The Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 has been suitably amended to make the provisions more effective.
Endangered species of plants and animals have been brought under the purview of ten acts. India is very rich both in flora and fauna but many plant and animal species are already extinct and many other are on the road to extinction. In spite of various acts and rules- regulations against exploitation of wildlife, the real conservation has one of the major wildlife producer counties of the world and yet there is a skeleton staff to safeguard the interests of wildlife.
Poachers are on the prowl even in sanctuaries and protected forest areas. They have become fertile hunting grounds for illegal hunting and killing of animals. The rich and influential people and traders in, animal-skins, horns, etc. have been indulging in hunting, killing and trading of wildlife with impunity. They carry telescopic rifles and other weapons, use traps and poison food and kill the animals. As a result of ecological imbalances and depleting forest-cover, the wild animals come out at night in search of food in the villages and attack human beings and domestic animals and fowls. In some parts of Uttar Pradesh the hyena and wolf-menace was very much in the news. Many children were killed by the wolves and hyenas.
Similarly, in Pauri Garwal district of UP some leopards turned into man-eaters. Faced with the scarcity of animals for prey in the forest and continuing attacks from poachers, they become man- eaters. And once a man-eater is always a man- eater because man is the softest target. On many an occasion, the villagers injure more animals then they kill and so the injured animals turn into man-eaters and attack villages at night for food.
When a human kill takes place, every leopard or tiger is regarded as man-eater and there is indiscriminate killing consequently, the number of these felines is decreasing fast. Thousands of snails, frog, rats, earthworms, cockroaches and other animals are killed for dissection in schools, colleges and laboratories for experiments. Snakes are also killed indiscriminately out of ignorance as greed. This destroys and disturbs the fragile ecological balance. Tigers are subjected to utmost brutality by man, the most intelligent and evolved animal on the earth. There is mindless destruction of forests for timber, firewood and fuel. Every year there is a loss of about 1.3 hectares of forest area in India because of large and indiscriminate clearing of forests for cultivation, quarrying and large dams and irrigation projects.
Then there is intensive and indiscriminate logging for commercial purposes by contractors and timber-merchants. Over-grazing has also taken its toll. The result is serious ecological imbalance and environment degradation. There is much pressure on forests and the relation between men and forests has reached the lowest depth. Conservation of forests and wildlife is also important from aesthete point of view. They make life beautiful and colourful. Without them human life will lose much of its beauty, charm and meaning. Their proper protection and conservation also means a continuous and adequate supply of food, fodder, medicines, timber etc.
Forests and wildlife and renewable resources which need to be diligently protected, preserved and increased in a planned way. There is a need to spread the awareness about forest and wildlife conservation. Social forestry can be taught in schools as a subject. More and more trees should be planted, protected and seen growing and maturing. There should be a ban on mobile zoos and animal rights activists should come forward to wage a war on behalf of the mute and innocent animals. The destruction and degradation of forests in upper reigns like Himalayas causes such other ruins as erosion of top soil erratic rainfall, and recurring floods. Deforestation is a great social and national evil and should be checked on priority basis. It results in loss of productivity and environment degradation among much other harm.
Encroachment on forests should also be checked and, if possible, banned, Non government agencies, village communities; trial’s etc. should be involved in social forestry and regeneration of degraded forest lands. They should be allowed to share the benefits of these schemes in a judicious manner. The forest and wildlife conservation laws should be made more stringent and practiced scrupulously. Veerappan’s continued bloody trade in ivory and sandalwood trade upsets all concerned.
Throughout the Nilgiris, it is now almost impossible to spot a large tusker. The full blown assault on forest and wildlife saddens all the Indians and wildlife lovers in foreign countries.