Youth's efforts in conservation need to be supplemented

Youth's efforts in conservation need to be supplemented

Dr M K Ranjitsinh is a walking encyclopedia. Recently, the die-hard conservationist and a member of the erstwhile royal family of Wankaner, who as a bureaucrat drafted the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, was awarded the coveted “Lifetime Service Award” at the Sanctuary Wildlife Awards 2014, in Mumbai.

He was the first Director of Wildlife Preservation of India. H­­e was the member secretary of the Task Force that formulated the Project Tiger. From 1975-80, he was the Nature Conservation Advisor in the Bangkok Regional Office of United Nations Environmental Programme and rendered invaluable services to countries in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Having seen India – right from the British era to modern times, he has voluminous information and anecdotes to be shared. Mrityunjay Bose spoke to Ranjitsinh in Mumbai.

You have been one of the pillars of India’s conservation movement. How do you look back?

I happened to be at the right place at the right time and I could deliver. The conservation ethos at all levels is most important. Whether it is among politicians, bureaucracy, media or common man, conservation efforts have to be led with commitment and interest. The future generations are key to conservation movement and this must come from the ground.

In this materialistic world, would it happen?

First of all, let me make it very clear – window dressing is not going to help, lip service will not bring in change. We need to have a widespread green movement. We have the foundation that is required and it will happen. The potential support has to come from the ground. Basically by nature, Indians are pro-conservation. If Ajanta and Ellora or Badrinath are heritage, so are Kanha and Kaziranga.

You drafted the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Could you elaborate?

In a way, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, formed the basis of conservation
in India. Earlier, forests and wildlife were state subjects. This brought the conservation movement under one platform. It controlled hunting, poaching,
smuggling, poisoning, trapping and so on.

Will the new government take initiatives on conservation?

Their full agenda is yet to be revealed. But there is a great push for development. We definitely need development but at the same time, there has to be a balance. We have to look at the entire
picture and work.

How do you see the role or corporates and NGOs emerging in the field of wildlife conservation?

Several good are people involved and some corporates are doing the work generously. There are NGOs who are working relentlessly. The government’s commitment, the role of corporates and NGOs and people at large would bring in change. It is not that in the area of conservation, we have not achieved anything. Now, the demand for conservation has to come from the ground , the top would help it. Political leadership and bureaucracy must support the people.

How the agenda of conservation has to be carried out?

We need to prioritise. That is more important. Today, if we have to look at great Indian Bustard, not more than 100 are left in Rajasthan. We have seen what has happened to tigers. There are several species which are on the verge of extinction. We have to plan out the recovery. The focal point should be conservation.  Right man at right place would help.

In India we have seen that when it comes to sport, money goes to cricket, when it comes to health sector, more money goes to HIV/AIDS, when it comes to conservation, money goes to tiger. Your comments.

I have been closely associated with tiger conservation. My contribution to tiger conservation is second to none. What we looked at is habitats. We have to look at endangered species and habitats.

What about wildlife tourism – is it doing good to conservation?

It is a double-edged sword. If it is
focused, it can bring change. But you often find 60 to 80 vehicles lined up to see one tiger! Don’t look at a single species. If you just want to see a tiger, you can very well go to a zoo or a safari. Conservation is the sum total and not just one species. You have to enjoy and love every bit of it.

What is your opinion on the zoos?

The problem is that we do not maintain zoos properly. Also, we just cannot go on scrapping them. Whatever zoos we have, they have to be made more conservation-oriented.

What is your message for the youth and the conservation programme ahead?

We are lucky to be blessed with such great plant life and animal life. We have to preserve them and youth need to play an important role. At the sanctuary awards, so many youth were awarded. They are doing their bit. Their efforts need to be backed, supplemented and more youth must come forward in some way or the other. The media has to play an important role. It is happening and would continue, but we must multiply our efforts.

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