Kudos to AT, Likha Tara and Mito Rumi (ATF-BFD) for publishing the letter ‘Wildlife and the zoos’ (AT, Nov 11, 2017) for raising important questions and highlighting the roles and responsibilities of modern zoos and their sincere efforts in conserving local wildlife and biodiversity. One of the greatest challenges for India in spite of being a megabiodiverse nation to successfully protect and conserve the endangered wildlife is the lack of 4Cs (Coordination, Cooperation, Communication and Compensation). Lack of coordination and cooperation among various government departments, environmental and conservation policy makers, law enforcement and security agencies, non government organizations and the public at large has been a major and historic obstacle in successful conservation efforts in India. The Central government’s perspective is different from that of the States on various conservation agencies; and even the Chief Forest Officer or Chief Wildlife Warden lives in an elusive parallel world of fiction than the ground realities faced by lower level foresters, rangers and forest guards. Since they are not in one page each problem with respect to conservation always transforms into a monumental crisis in this country.
One could raise this questions how many States or Union Territories in India could provide latest, update and genuine (not fudged) status reports on their forest resources, wildlife and biodiversity other than erstwhile data left by our colonial masters 70 years back? A vast majority of such available reports are non comprehensive, lacks credibility and filled with serious loopholes like inappropriate or outdated survey, census or statistical methods used. The situation is severely pathetic. Secondly, lack of communication between the government agencies and the public, lack of locality specific mass awareness programs (LSMAP) to sensitize public regarding the value and importance of conservation, lack of proper awareness among students (the future citizens) at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels other than just an existing course based curriculum has been cutting down the good efforts initiated by the government in successfully reaching the grass root level of awareness and appreciation among the public.
Lastly, there is no real award or compensation for ordinary citizens for being truly environment friendly in India. A Celebrity or a Minister holding the picture of a tiger cub can get a lot of press and media coverage; but an ordinary villager in the remote corner of the nation who does not use forest timber in spite of hardships as his/her sacrifice to protect the environment is always unrewarded or not compensated in terms of soft loans or tax credits or educational benefits for his/her environmental contribution to the society. Unless ordinary people are effectively sensitized, educated and made aware of the natural resources of the nation including wildlife and biodiversity and are demonstrated how that matters to their daily life; successful wildlife conservation is a difficult objective to achieve in the next few decades! Unless the people factor is taken very seriously in any conservation project; their success will always going to be limited to some reports or academic research papers or a newspaper clip or a video. Ground realities demand that ordinary people be actively involved in conservation for long term success; and that involvement comes through successful applications of the 4C approach.
Saikat Kumar Basu,