Saturday, 24 December 2011

Forest dept team on ‘jumbo junket’ to Kenya

Official who had been on an earlier trip says wildlife management practices vary in India, Africa
The State Forest Department has sent seven of its officers to attend a course on ‘Man animal conflict and wildlife management practices’ in Kenya, despite the opinion of B K Singh, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), that the management practices adopted in Africa were different from those in India.

The 11-day trip, from December 14 to 25, has got the clearance from the Union Ministries of Finance, External Affairs and Environment and forest. The department is spending Rs 2.13 lakh on each officer attending the course. 

Singh - who had visited Krugar National Park in South Africa and Masaimara and Amboseli National Parks in Kenya between November 22 and 27 - has submitted a report to the government stating that the circumstances in Africa are different from those in India.

“Our circumstances generally do not tally with the facts and circumstances of conflict management in maintenance of barriers and eco-tourism there,” he states in the report.

As per Singh’s observations, at Masaimara Park in Kenya, the park management kills animals straying out as the provision of killing elephants minimises conflict.  Singh also cites the instance of a translocation experiment carried out in Kenya. Of the 60 elephants at Norak Town Elephant Park translocated to Masaimara Park three months ago, one has returned to its original habitat, while two female elephants moved into human dominated areas and were shot dead by police. Though 57 of them are still in the translocated area, more time is required to come to any conclusion, he states. Singh says elephants there are ‘hardly aggressive’ compared to Asian elephants. 

Human-animal conflict is less in Krugar National Park, compared to our country. Krugar does not have any human habitation. Thus, the conflict with humans is only on the fringes of the park.

Community participation

In his recommendation, he states community participation is the need of the hour.“The Masai tribes in the vicinity of the park coexist with elephants, and there are hardly any instances of conflict. We need to learn lessons from the community participation in Kenya. Tribals and forest dwellers should learn to coexist with wild animals, especially elephants, as Masai tribes have learnt to live with African elephants.” 

When contacted by this reporter, Singh said his trip to Kenya and South Africa had been with the Jungle Lodges and Resorts Limited, and that the main focus of the trip was to study the eco-tourism sector in Africa.

“The process to send the officials to Kenya began two months ago. It is only incidental that my report was submitted before they left. Also, I had only visited two national parks, while these officials will visit five parks,” he said. 

Singh said: “Yes, I do feel that we have few lessons to learn from the wildlife management practices adopted in Kenya. However, I have also highlighted the aspect of community participation adopted in that country, which has proved to be a good measure.” 

Officers who have been sent on the trip are: Ajay Mishra, CCF, Project Elephant, Mysore; H P Prakash, CCF (CAMPA), Bangalore; Vijay Ranjan Singh, DCF, Wildlife division, Hunsur; K T Hanumantappa, DCF, Bandipur; Vinay R Naik, ACF, Bannerghatta National Park, Bangalore; S R Prasanna Kumar, ACF and Technical Assistant to the office of PCCF (wildlife), Bangalore; K T Boraiah, RFO, Kollegal Wildlife Range. M S Chinappa, RFO, Periyapatna range, Hunsur division could not make it due to technical glitches.

The department has utilised the slots available under the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) project of Karnataka. Once the officials return, the total expenses incurred will be forwarded to the Ministry of Finance, which will reimburse the department under the JICA project. After completion of the foreign visit, the officers should submit a report within two weeks.

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