Friday, September 16, 2005


This 82-year old circus trainer in Kerala has sent his 21 caged big cats to the Tirupati Zoo.
Ever since a Supreme Court order banned the use of wild animals in circus and other shows in 1998, Cruz and the animals have been jobless. The owner of Jumbo circus, M.V. Shankaran, kept 19 lions, a lioness and a blind tiger at an estate near Mananthavadi. in Wayanad district as long as he could afford to.
More here.

Meanwhile, at the Byculla zoo in Mumbai, life gets more interesting for the animals - in a good way, we hope.

Other animals weren't so lucky.

And finally, optimistically: the youngest animal rescue and rehab team.

Mumbaiites, please think about saving a bird!

This MM report today:
A study conducted by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) in partnership with BirdLife International and the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) has shown that the country has 465 important bird areas, of which 198 are outside the protected areas. Three hundred and twenty four species of birds in Asia are listed as globally threatened, which makes it one fourth of the globally threatened birds. The study has noted that the destruction is the most rampant in Asia.

...BNHS and Lintas Lowe have started a campaign, called Adopt a Rare Bird for BNHS. The organisation hopes to secure at least 5000 adoptions. If you care for the endangered species, all you have to do is adopt an endangered bird for Rs 300. And for saving the bird you will be given a personalised photo frame of the bird you have saved. For details please call the Bombay Natural History Society on 22821811.

A good first step

...for animals in post 26/7 Mumbai is that the city's cattle market will soon be shifted to Palghar, outside the city.
This is being viewed as a first step toward shifting all city tabelas after the July 26 floods.

The government has asked the cattle controller to implement the order. Started in 1976 on a 3.25 acre land, the market runs 365 days a year and mostly deals with buffaloes. The market is used extensively by traders from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat. Since the market and tabelas will soon move out of the city, the community involved in the trade will also have to follow. The state government has appealed to tabela owners on various occasions to shift their tabelas to Dapchari. The land earmarked for the purpose has been lying vacant as none of the tabela owners are willing to shift.

How they are doing...

"They are listless, just lethargic. Or they are scared, if quivering is any measure..." begins this report, but a huge pet rescue operation is going on in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I'm so, so glad. It's a truly remarkable and compassionate effort. (Thanks Suj for the link)

Back home in India, this 80-year old tortoise was saved because of a "sensible" diet! And this python was saved by a team of surgeons.

These pigs, however, weren't so fortunate. (Thanks, Amit, for the link)

And finally, Suniti Bhushan Datta writes about Kabini, a human project that benefits wildlife.

Saving the shahtoosh, not the chiru

Turns out the point is to save the shahtoosh, not the chiru, or at least that's what Swaminathan Aiyar tells us in his Sunday ToI column this week.

As you may know, the chiru, or the Tibetan antelope, is a species in danger of becoming extinct because of relentless hunting. Once hunted, its skin is made into shahtoosh shawls. About three chiru are killed to make one shahtoosh shawl. Here is a summary of the chiru issue.

And what's so great about the shahtoosh shawl? Well, I've never (shudder) seen one, nor do I ever want to - but I presume it's warm, because each shawl is after all made from the skin of three of these beautiful animals that lived - before they were killed and skinned - in sub-zero temperatures on the Tibetan Plateau.

Oh, and apparently you can put each of these shawls through a ring, if you care for that sort of amusement.

The chiru lives on 11,000 to 18,000 feet altitudes at temperatures of -40 degrees F. As this report points out, its numbers have come down to 70,000 from an estimated 1,000,000 in the earlier part of the last century, and 20,000 are killed every year:
Traditionally, the animal is trapped prior to killing. However, with today’s increasing demand, contemporary poachers have devised innovative, cost and time effective ways to kill. At night, they shine bright lights at whole resting herds. The innocent animal, baffled by this new experience, freezes - and thereby signs its own death warrant. The poachers let loose their automatic weapons at these sitting targets.
Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar suggests a solution for the problem of the vanishing chiru: farm the chirus, and save the shahtoosh. Of course, it isn't as if he is the first to have suggested this: chiru farming is one of those ideas that seem totally bizarre to me, but yes, it's been discussed.

Aiyar harks back to other examples, including that of the eider duck farming in Iceland, and a law enacted in 1281 making eider ducks the property of farmers on whose land they bred. But hello: eider ducks are now a protected species, and farmers in Iceland use a technique of collecting the down without harming the bird. And no, it is not possible to obtain the shahtoosh wool without killing the chiru.

Here is Aiyar's suggestion, make what you will of it:
We must allow the chiru to be farmed and harvested. The farmed chiru will have to be killed selecively, just as minks are killed for their fur...Farming chirus will be no more unethical than farming goats for meat and skin.
Why do this? He says:
If chiru-farming spreads quickly, the price of shahtoosh shawls will crash. This will make poaching less profitable and attractive. Low shahtoosh prices will greatly reduce the money power of poachers...In any event, farm-rearing will ensure that the chiru flourishes in farms, and does not become extinct.
To me, it's impossible to justify killing three beautiful wild animals every time you want to push a length of shawl through a ring, blah blah. And to farm them just to kill them for shawls. Farm them and kill them to protect them from becoming extinct?

Meanwhile, here is a detailed factsheet about the chiru and its regulatory status.

Cross-posted on Indian Writing. Chiru picture Earth Island.