Wildlife - The Way Ahead

Friday 14, 2009
You know what the funny thing is? …We don’t get down to doing anything till the time there is a bloody emergency looming on our heads !! Well I don’t blame us. Its Human Nature.

The exciting news is…IT IS AN EMERGENCY RIGHT NOW !

So well, it’s a complicated web and we HAVE to tread through it if we want to be able to achieve anything. So lets start by seeing the main propogants in the present scenario. Well, there is the state govt., the central govt., the NGOs, the corporates, the hospitality/tourism chains, the media, the locals and last but not the least, us.

In our country, all the national parks are managed by the government itself. So every year, there is a budget allocation that is done separately by the central and state governments. Also, there is a lot of external/foreign money that flows in through NGO’s or is supposed to do so atleast. The corporates presently have little or no involvement with wildlife other than the occasional field trips which are organized by their HR departments.

The Hospitality chains are minting money by sitting on huge tracts of land on the fringes of the forest. A lot of park boundaries are actually overcrowded with these hospitality chains. Same goes for tourism operators.

There is usually such a huge waiting queue for bookings to stay in the official government accommodations within these parks that you may mistake them to be amusement parks instead of wildlife parks!

Time and again, there are conflicting theories on the interrelationship between the local tribals/villagers and the wildlife. One school of thought propagates the need for leveraging local support for the sustenance of the wildlife while the other advocates the removal of these people from the wild based on past incidents where wildlife has either been hunted, poisoned, killed by these locals either for food or for supplying to poachers. The Media in our country has become active in the past few years and is the most efficient tool for spreading awareness which in turn can create pressure on the empowered set of people to take some action.

As for US, the people, we really don’t give a flying ***k about these things. I don’t expect us to either. Because the game of life is played differently. And the solution to this issue lies in a much bigger economic fundamental. THE ONLY REASON WHY HUMANS WOULD WANT TO SAVE WILDLIFE IS IF IT WAS MONETARILY PROFITABLE TO DO SO. AND THE ONLY REASON WHY WE ARE FAILING TO DO SO RIGHT NOW IS BECAUSE IT IS MORE PROFITABLE TO KILL WILDLIFE RATHER THAN TO SAVE IT!!! It is like that simple law of business that is taught to us in elementary business school…UNLESS EVERYONE IS BEING PROFITED, THE SCHEME IS NOT GONNA WORK !!

In furtherance to this, I would also like to inform the reader that whereas wildlife conservation is a challenge across the globe, its not that we are losing the battle everywhere. There are successful examples of efficient park management across the globe, which have led to the flourishing of the flora and fauna. Specifically talking about Tigers or Lions, they are warriors and survivors and can reproduce quite rapidly if given very little support. So here it becomes vital for us to look at these examples and try to learn from them.

In my recent visit to the Wildlife Parks of Africa, I noticed how closely the economy was interwoven around their Wildlife. Not only is Wildlife Tourism a matter of National Pride, but it is also a Huge Revenue Generator for the people of Africa!!...AND a great Real Estate Idea!! Having grown up in a Business- House, I have come to realize that no system can survive without it being sustainable- economically, socially and politically.

In Africa, I noticed that the Park (specifically, Kruger National Park) had been divided into many different zones by the government, the management of which had been given off to the private sector. These zones are being operated by some excellent wildlife hospitality chains. Of course, they are paying a hefty amount of lease premium to the government who invites bids from these private parties in a very transparent and competitive manner. In return, these companies are given off a restricted area to construct their lodges and resorts. They also manage the upkeep of the area within their zone and do their best to protect the animals because the income generated by the tourists from all over the world who come to see these animals, is more than they would have got if they would have killed those animals.

They construct waterholes, check on any poaching, and promote the area by employing some very efficient practices. I remember them taking us out on a spin in their Range Rovers for Night Safari. They served us some exquisite cuisine and drinks while at the same time educated us more about the animals and their habits. I have gotten some of the best wildlife shots in my life during this trip.

There is no physical division on land, so the animals are free to move between various zones. This in turn has given employment and prosperity to the locals of the area who work mostly at these lodges. Not to mention that the Real Estate in the vicinity has come to be as some of the best in the world. One such example that I saw was the famous Suncity, next to the Pilanesberg Reserve where some of the most famous beauty pageants of the world have been held in the past.

Now, considering a model like this, everyone is profited. The government, the corporates, the tourism and hospitality operators, the tourist/traveller, the locals, but most importantly, the WILDLIFE !

Applying this in the Indian context, there is a risk of the private parties themselves looking to milk the animals to make a quick buck. However, some efficient monitoring and auditing sytems can be employed to keep a check on that. Moreover, the shortlisted parties may be heavily scrutinized. All those things can be taken care of. The point is, that only a self sustainable model like this can be the answer to India’s wildlife woes!

I don’t need to stress here that this can also potentially be a great source of income for the poor and impoverished of our country as well and get the politicians and bureaucrats some good cookie points from the voters ! ;) I hope the government wakes up, and realizes that it can actually be possible to make profit out of preserving the wildlife. And I hope, that you, the reader, help in spreading the word.

Nayan Raheja is a keen conservationist and an avid wildlife photographer. He is also Director, Raheja Developers , a leading Real Estate firm. He has been travelling extensively to wildlife parks across the globe since over 20 years and may be contacted at: