BENGALURU: Unless local communities are involved in conservation and wildlife protection issues, one cannot save tigers or stem the continuing deaths in Karnataka. Tiger is part of India’s soul and you cannot afford to lose it, said legendary field biologist Dr George Schaller.
One of the founding fathers of wildlife conservation movement in the world, Schaller’s field research has helped shape wildlife protection efforts globally, be it the US, China, Brazil, South-East Asia, Nepal or Africa.
Presently, the vice-president of Panthera, a wildcat conservation organisation and also a senior conservationist with Wildlife Conservation Society, Schaller said, “India has to decide the best way to tackle it as the whole issue is integrated -- protecting wildlife and also local communities.
Man-animal conflicts are a huge social issue and there are no simple solutions. The state government should not only make efforts to save the unique forest habitat but also the livelihood of people.”
Spending most of his time in the field in Asia, Africa and South America, Schaller (83) has led seminal studies and helped protect some of the planet’s most endangered and iconic animals.
He is presently in India for a week traversing from Nagarhole to Dehradun to Arunachal Pradesh. He added, “It is India’s responsibility to save the tigers for Planet Earth and the country has made huge progress right from the time of Indira Gandhi. But if you concentrate only on development, then our future is likely to be bleak. It is up to India alone to save the tiger. The country today has great conservationists like Dr Ullas Karanth and others, unlike other countries, and so you do not need foreign help to tackle tiger conservation issues.”
His research and studies have involved many species ranging from the mountain gorilla in Congo, snow leopards in Mongolia, jaguars in Brazil, giant pandas in China, tigers in India, lions in Tanzania, wild sheep and goats of the Himalayas. They have been the basis for his scientific and popular writings -- 16 books, among them The Year of the Gorilla, The Serengeti Lion, The Last Panda, and Tibet’s Hidden Wilderness. In collaboration with Chinese and Tibetan scientists, Schaller has worked for nearly two decades studying and developing conservation initiatives for the snow leopard, Tibetan antelope, and wild yak among other species.