I am very disturbed by the recent video that is viral about mob lynching of a tigress in Philibhit Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh. It is disheartening to see the reaction pouring in from various social media channels and the sensationalism media has brought in this case. Will this incessant outpouring of anger, frustration, name-calling and demeaning do any good for conservation? I feel it won’t.
Sitting in cities with all the benefits and privileges, are we really capable to judge what’s happening in conflict zones like these? I request each and everyone of you to just think before you type or share. I respect people’s sentiments as the tigress visuals are dramatic and painful, but we only see a portion of it and not the whole picture. So we can’t pass on the judgement. Another example that I came across was the death of a male tiger in Nilgiri division in and rumours spread like wildfire that it was a poisoning case. Reactions showered abuses on the villages nearby. It was given the colour of a perfect murder but now the post-mortem report suggests that it was choked to death by the food it ate. Maybe the damage has already been done on ground zero, as the curses and abuses would have reached as fast as the wind to those who are not even part of this incident, which might create a divide between the villagers who live in these areas. The result is that the forest managers and NGOs who are working hard to mitigate the human-animal conflicts there will find it tough to gain trust from the villagers in these conflict areas. Those who fired these comments are not at all affected by this, but the animals will be…
How the beast was killed by villagers in Philibhit is unjustifiable; blaming the whole village for the mess created by few is what worries me. The perception war of cities upholding the love for nature and villages marring environment by encroaching is not completely true. If the cities loved nature as they perceived then we would not have to run for clean air and water. Sometimes unfortunately for few the love for nature is just restricted to social media activism and safaris in jeeps inside the jungles for a few days without even connecting with nature or the people who survive around these areas. As long as explosion of human population, degradation and fragmentation of habitat of wildlife is happening human-animal conflicts are tend to increase and policymakers and authorities have to work with a long term vision to reduce this crisis. Inter-department coordination is necessary for an amicable solution.
There is a specific pattern that I have noticed and that is nature lovers in cities react to such incidents spontaneously in social media without taking into account the ground reality. Such kind of outburst builds up and creates a hashtag trend which news media takes up and some even sensationalize it with dramatic video effects to boost Target Rating Points (TRPs). This coverage is taken up by those who are against such Tiger reserves. They can arm-twist the hardworking NGOs and people who are trying to protect these areas and even incite the villagers to take up arms against animals and those who protect them which leads to more such mishaps until either the ‘interested’ group manage to destroy the habitat of animals or make that place so unsafe for those who are protecting those animals. It is a vicious cycle of money and land which unfortunately have only one loser and that is the animal itself. You go through any report or incident recently you will find how this works.
Now another type of viral behaviour which is creating trauma to creatures that are born wild is the so-called ‘cute videos’ of exotic wildlife and forced selfies with them which trend on Instagram and other social media channels. A few months ago a video of a Chimpanzee looking at the phone screen and scrolling Instagram went viral.
Dr. Jane Goodall, the world- famous conservationist, and primatologist condemned and requested public not to share this video as it was an inappropriate portrayal of a juvenile chimpanzee. In the recent investigation report that came in National Geographic ‘Suffering Unseen: The Dark Truth behind wildlife tourism’ by Natasha Daly and also article about Otter Cafes in Mongabay website shed light into how social media influences illegal wildlife trafficking all around the world.
I must also emphasize on constructive use of social media as people need the inspiration to get involved in activities to preserve nature. There is a lot of positive development and good work happening in India and around the world. Exposure to such productive initiatives and, promoting it will boost the morale of volunteers who relentlessly work day and night in securing nature for the future. Some of these organizations work with meagre funds and very little resources. Bringing their services into the notice of the general public will help to garner support and resources for them to work. Corporates also will be able to contribute if they know about such institutions. Sometimes such stories of goodwill, courage, dedication, and commitment towards Mother Earth help in changing the attitude of policymakers and authorities to make right choices and stand up for the benefit of the environment.
The wave of positivity and hope will bring the change we need. I request readers to look for such stories and to express them with a passion so that it creates an impression for others.
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