Protecting Wildlife: A Multidimensional Approach
Hunting is a global problem. It is not limited to any particular country or region but it is more profound in some areas. The Northeast region of India, which is known for its rich biodiversity, and flora and fauna, has become a major talking point of late due to uncontrolled human behaviour. Hunting continues unabated despite the Indian wildlife laws prohibiting killing of almost all wild animals. Laws have been largely ineffective in the region for several reasons, including the age-old tradition of hunting for meat by indigenous tribal communities, who also own the forests. What is more disturbing is the possibility of losing the rich biodiversity in a matter of a few years due to population growth, encroachment of animal habitat, better accessibility to remote forests, availability of modern tools, commercialisation of wild animals, etc. The threat of losing the rich flora and fauna in the biodiversity hotspot is more palpable today than a few decades ago when the indigenous tribal communities used to share a unique relationship with their lands and natural resources, as it was their sole source of survival. Human greed has broken the long-standing unique human-nature relationship despite the availability of better avenues of income, pushing several species to the brink of extinction. The fact that thousands of endangered animal and plant species still make it to the markets every year, indicates that awareness programmes have not been as effective as expected. The message of wildlife conservation should be taken to every nook and corner of the country, especially remote areas. Organising awareness programmes and seminars only during the National Wildlife Week, which is observed between October 2 and the 8th in India, and that too in the urban areas where human settlement has depleted the forest, won’t address the issue. Educating the villagers and community involvement is a must. People’s mindset towards wildlife and nature should change.
In the meantime, wildlife conservation efforts should go hand-in-hand with forest preservation. Rampant felling of trees for timber, development projects and other activities has affected the ecosystem in the Northeast, which is home to thousands of animals and plants species. According to the India State of Forests Report 2021 released by the Ministry of Environment, the region accounts for only 7.98 per cent of India’s geographical area but accounts for 23.75 per cent of the country’s total forest cover. It added that a substantial forest cover was lost in just two years, mainly due to developmental activities including construction of dams. This points to the need for proper planning and survey before taking up development works, which is also inevitable. Unrestrained destruction of forest in the name of development and boosting income can kill more animals than hunting. The growing number of human-animal conflicts is a case in point. To preserve and restore the region’s rich biodiversity, forests should be allowed to regrow naturally. Introducing non-native species can do more harm than good to the ecosystem, which is why activists are against the proposed oil palm cultivation in the region. The approach to wildlife conservation should be multi-dimensional.