When one thinks wildlife conservation, posters of tigers and dolphins cross the mind. However, it’s not just the poster child, species that are struggling and need to be saved. There is a whole gamut of animals that need to be saved. “Just because some species have grandeur about them doesn’t mean that we ignore the rest,” said M K Ranjitsinh, conservationist and wildlife expert, at the Habitats Trust Grant 2018 award ceremony.
It was Ranjitsinh’s efforts that brought back focus on the Indian crocodile. “But who wants to focus on an animal like the crocodile? With the kind of focus that we have had on the tiger, we have lost out on many other animals, which in turn has affected tigers as well. Anyone familiar with the Jim Corbett National Park of 1960s would know that hog deers were thriving then. It was an indicator that the tiger is thriving as well. Today, they have reduced in numbers drastically and that is a dangerous sign.”
He also shared that a lot of people are not even aware of the many species that will actually go extinct way before it will be the tiger’s turn. “In fact, the tiger will never go extinct. There is too much attention that it is receiving. But there are species of which only 200 or 400 remain.”
He also stressed on the need for conserving the habitats more than the species. “Once the habitat is restored, many species will come back eventually.”
Roshni Nadar Malhotra, founder of The Habitats Trust, also agreed that there needs to be a focus on preserving natural habitats across the country. “This is precisely why we have launched this trust so that we can at least preserve the habitats as they exist today and not let them deplete any further. There is a ‘Mega Mammal Myopia’ in the contemporary world. In India too people are obsessed with the elephant, the tiger and the rhino, but it’s time to look beyond that.”
The CEO of Mara Conservancy, Kenya, Brian Heath raised concerns regarding wildlife habitats and tourism as well. He said, “There is a lot of knowledge that we can exchange across countries. For example, with each passing year the number of people visiting the Mara Conservancy is increasing. Do we handle it the way it is done in India, by limiting the number of people who visit these habitats, or by raising the premium on these places? The locals are totally dependent on tourism and their incomes have increased significantly in the recent years.
I believe the best way to go ahead is by raising the premium on these places.” He also shared, “Another issue is that the habitat is spread across two countries - Kenya and Tanzania. You cannot stop animals from moving across borders. It has to remain porous. I think it’s a great model for others to learn from.”