Poaching – Why?

Early men poached wild boars for food. Fierce tribal leaders fought with cheetahs and tigers bare handed and perished or won to show their bravery and strength. Bravery, leadership, machoness and skill were identified by the number of predator skin a man has which earned him fame and many mates as well. These instances happened about 3000 years ago. The world hasn’t changed much since, except for the invention of fast killing guns and a black market to sell the legally un-sellable – The poached goods. The ‘thought’ that – having poached materials like tiger skin, bear skin, ivory, birds’ skull, etc., added to the bravery of the owner flourished in the pre-historic ages when man began to form civilizations and came out of a nomadic tribe. Man grew non-wild slowly but never looked down on a wild man who can poach and hunt.

Though people may die, ideas live on and unfortunately the idea that ‘having poached goods increases your bravery and pride’ lived on.

Tigers were the worst affected in India. About 90 % of the tigers vanished in India to feed the black-markets of Chinese with tiger skin and tiger meat. Shekar Dattatri, a world-renowned cinematographer in his documentary “Truth about Tigers” clearly penned down what are the reasons for this drastic decline – the Ignorance of the forest officials, some men’s greediness for money and blind beliefs of the Chinese that the Tiger skin actually increases has medicinal values. In fact, Tiger skin is used for a variety of reasons. In Chinese medicine, it is made into an ointment to treat skin cancer and the tail bones of tigers were believed to ward off evil spirits. I don’t know exactly what the evil spirit means here because the only evil spirit I know is ‘HUMANS’ and he in fact is attracted by the bones of a tiger and is not ward off. Irony, eh? Though the Chinese Government has imposed a ban on the use of Animal products, it is still widely used in Chinese medicine.

Personally, I’ve seen live instances of poaching. On one of my bird watching trips to Chembarambakkam lake with my friend – Ramesh Rajesh, we saw about 6 Narikorava people shoot down more than 50 birds – both migrants and residents. What was supposed to be a 2 hour bird watching trip ended up in a 14 hour ordeal as we called up forest officials who arrived after 3 hours during which 3 Narikoravas had already left with half the kill and the other 3 were just about to leave. Police doesn’t come late only in the cinema, it happens in real life too. Among the birds were cormorants, purple herons, godwit, egrets and many more. That was one bloody day. A day filled with the blood of birds and the tears of Narikoravas as they pleaded that they don’t know anything other than their traditional hunting and they were in huge debt from loan-sharks. So, we can’t really blame them. So, who is to be blamed?

I’ll put the blame on the public and the forest officials. The blame on the public because they don’t know anything and they don’t care. Infact, the public is not ‘they’. It’s ‘we’. We are too ignorant to know anything about the birds that are so important to the wild life, so important in seed dispersing, so important in keeping some predators alive, so important in making the skies look magnificent, so important in eating out carcasses, so important in everything. The sad fact is we’re ignorant and we don’t even know about it. Denial is the word.

You might ask “What the hell am I gonna do if I know about these birds?” or “Even if I know about the birds what difference will it make? Will it stop the killing?”. Let me tell you, it will. If an individual comes to know of the importance of wildlife and birds, the society will come to know about it, then the hierarchy just moves up and eventually the Government will take necessary action to save these precious products of nature. “You are the change you want the world to be.” Unfortunately, we don’t want any change.

Then, what about the forest officials? We should not forget that forest officials are just a part of the public. But they’re paid to do their work – that is – know about wildlife and save them. I don’t want to assault the forest officials too much because it’s only their presence that is keeping off poachers from several sanctuaries but still they can do a lot more than that.

So, poaching? Will it stop? I don’t think so poaching will suddenly stop like the water coming from a faucet but eventually it will. One can see people becoming more aware of the environment we’re living in and agreeing to the ‘fact’ that we can’t live in an environment we degrade continuously.

Only at the precipice, Humans will change and the precipice is here.

A cormorant mortally injured
A cormorant mortally injured and fighting to live

Be it the aphrodisiac made from the horns of the ‘one horned rhinoceros in Khaziranga National Park, Assam’ or the skin cancer ointment made from the once majestic, now declining ‘Indian Tigers’ or the exotic meat of the migrant birds that poachers and narikuravas sell either at Chembarambakkam or at Pondicherry, I can surely say that they’re just the products of ‘utter ignorance’ and ‘denial’. It’s time to open up our eyes and look at the birds’ because in few years down the line you won’t see any of them.

As a common man, there’s nothing much we can do as our cries were not heard. We haven’t figured out what a common man can do to save the wildlife but ‘we’ will figure it out soon for which a common man’s power is what is most under-rated.

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