Randeep Hooda: Wildlife conservation can't be done from five-star hotels

Updated: Jul 29, 2019, 11:40 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

On Global Tiger Day, actor and tiger conservationist Randeep Hooda speaks of the need to involve locals in conservation while re-thinking infra projects that affect ecosystem

Randeep Hooda: Wildlife conservation can't be done from five-star hotels
Randeep Hooda, with wildlife photographer Sarosh Lodhi

As the world celebrates Global Tiger Day today, July 29, actor and conservationist Randeep Hooda applauded the efforts of forest officials and workers in wildlife conservation, pointing to the rise in tiger population in the state. The latest tiger population figures will be announced by the state government soon. Hooda, who has been taking up several issues related to environment and wildlife conservation, said that these efforts will see true success only if local communities staying surrounding tiger reserves and national parks are involved.

Hooda, in conversation with mid-day, also spoke of Tigress T1 while also extending his full support to the Save Aarey campaign. Aarey needs to be protected from unplanned projects and encroachment, he said, adding that the car depot needed to be shifted to some other location. He spoke to mid-day about what is going right and what isn't in our effort at conservation.

Excerpts from the conversation:

What are the major challenges to conservation as of today?
I think our forest department officers and the staff on the ground including the vanmazoors are doing a commendable job to protect tigers and other wild animals. It reflects in the increased number of tigers. However, the reduction in forest cover is something that worries me. Human and tiger populations are both growing but the habitat is shrinking. Most tiger deaths are a result of infighting and not poaching. Also, death due to electrocution needs to be addressed. Effective enforcement of laws is a must for this. We also need to link wildlife corridors connecting one forest with another for species to travel. Lastly, the most important thing - involve local communities in conservation because it can't be done from five-star hotels. It will only be truly successful if the local communities staying around tiger reserves and national parks have goodwill for the wildlife. For this, we must provide them jobs and employment opportunities in the wildlife tourism sector. Farmers staying along the periphery of tiger reserves should get compensation for crop depredation/cattle kill/man-animal conflict. This addresses their ire.

Has been actively working for tiger conservation. Pics/Randeep Hooda
Has been actively working for tiger conservation. Pics/Randeep Hooda

The threats our tiger reserves and national park face...
Linear infrastructure projects passing through ecologically rich forest patches pose a huge threat to wildlife. Authorities need to undertake detailed studies to ascertain if the project really needs to pass through the forest.

Is involving private hunters to capture/shoot a problem animal a solution?
I don't think it is needed. We have dedicated veterinarians and sharpshooters from the police department. Despite this, controversial shooter Nawab Shafat Ali Khan was involved in the T1 (Avni) operation. She was allegedly shot down by his son who did not seem to have the licence for the weapon used. What happened to that case? We have really good laws but somewhere the implementation fails. The court in an order had said that all animals have the same rights as humans and so laws related to wildlife offences including poaching and electrocution should be made stringent. It should be considered as murder. People will then think a hundred times before committing such heinous crimes.

Your take on Aarey Milk colony?
Is there no other area where the car depot can be shifted? Aarey Milk Colony is an ecologically rich area and acts as a buffer zone to Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Protecting the green cover from unplanned development and mushrooming encroachment is the need of the hour. Inhabitants of Aarey, including the tribals, are not being heard. There is no doubt that the Metro will prove beneficial to the city but it cannot come up at the cost of an ecologically rich area. From planners to the government, everyone must think of this. I fully support the Aarey fight. The car depot needs to be shifted to some other location even if it means higher costs.

Randeep Hooda

And the coastal road project?
I have not studied it in detail but the project should be implemented without causing much harm to the coastline and marine species.

The state forest department has been carrying out massive tree plantation drives every year. Do you think it works?
The tree plantation drive is a really good initiative but I think the authorities need to grow taller saplings before they are given out for plantation. The survival rate of small saplings is low. Forest department nurseries need to be strengthened. But again, we cannot replicate the ecosystem of a forest through plantation drives.

95
Percentage of world's wild tigers lost since the beginning of 20th century

3,900
No. of wild tigers left in the world

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