Predatory tourism


A Saturday afternoon somewhere in British India, in September 1913, just one year before the Great War (as if it could ever be great), two Englishmen were talking:

-“What are you doing tomorrow, Jack?”

-“Nothing much, I thought about shooting a tiger or two.”

-“Don’t mind if I joined? I would be excited to go for an elephant myself.”

-“No, please, you are welcome, we will take along some brandy.”

A Saturday afternoon in September 2013 in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, one day before Kumar, a villager, was killed by a frightened elephant while taking tourists illegally into a Reserved Forest, this was the conversation between two IT specialists:

-“What are you doing tomorrow, man?”

-“Nothing much da, I thought of a night jeep safari and before, a trek from the eco-resort.”

-“You don’t mind if I joined? I would be excited to come close to an elephant.”

-“No, please, you are welcome, we will have some booze as well.”

In 1913 there were tens of thousands tigers and hundreds of thousand elephants in India. Today tigers are little more than 1,000 and elephants maybe ca. 20,000. The difference between sport hunting and predatory tourism is that – no wait, there is no difference. You end-up killing the last tigers by disturbing them, you put yourself in danger and worse, you get people killed. In wildlife reserves, avoid all activity that is not supervised by trained and authorized persons.

Jean-Philippe Puyravaud

The road to hell is paved with good plastic intentions

On the road to Kotagiri

On the road to Kotagiri

When you live in the middle of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, you need to be very careful with plastic because herbivores eat plastic bags and die of intestinal occlusion. In spite of the righteous boards “Plastic-free Nilgiris” placed on each road entering the Nilgiris, locally produced items are conscientiously wrapped in a layer of plastic and then delivered in a polythene bag thought to be cotton. Industrial products, of course, are almost always packaged in plastic. A single household produces maybe 1 kg of plastic per week.

I thought that, if plastic is produced in this region, it must be “treated”. As it happened, not at all. Plastic is burned by villagers or buried or left. Toxins released into the air contaminate plants, soil, surface water and groundwater. This can result in pollutants being absorbed by food crops, vegetation. Dioxins and furans occur as byproducts. Dioxin, is linked to cancer in humans, and dioxins and furans both accumulate in animal tissue. Reported effects on birds and fish, include increased mortality, decreased growth, reproductive failure and birth defects.

The “Plastic-free Nilgiris” campaign is supposed to suggest that this region forbids the use of plastic, which would be unattainable. But what it actually means is that the plastic problem is not addressed. It kills humans with cancer, pollutes the Ooty carrots and Nilgiris tea, and whatever is exposed to it. Who cares?

Plastic is a resource that can be reused and preferably less used. But as long as there is no real action, waste of resources, human lives and biodiversity will continue. The roads to Ooty with boards posting good intentions take us to hell. Too bad for the Biosphere Reserve.

Jean-Philippe Puyravaud.

Feeding wild elephants kills them

Rivaldo, lucky to survive with his trunk cut after being fed by humans

Rivaldo, lucky to survive with his trunk cut after being fed by humans

Sharing food is natural among people who are close to each other, in the same family or not so close to each other, just because we belong to the same human family after all. Sharing food is a sign of friendliness. Most domestic animals were probably domesticated by sharing food with them.  The trouble is that in some instance, it creates a lot of problems.

Elephants like any other animals become habituated to being fed. At the beginning, all is well. They go away. Then, they start demanding food. Elephants have a large appetite and need approximately 100 kg of food per day. Habituated elephants do not roam the jungle any more. As they find food in a particular place, they do not bother any more to explore as they normally do. They  destroy all vegetation in their vicinity, accelerating their own starvation.

Habituated elephants lose their fear of humans and try to break into houses in search of fruits, vegetables and cereals. Not all people are welcoming to elephants. To defend themselves or just out of fear people will start screaming, and put their lives in danger. Alternatively, they may take a weapon and harm the elephants.

We have seen such development time after time. Our friend Rivaldo (see our videos) was extremely lucky. He became habituated, and  probably went to a house where the tip of his trunk was cut. He was extremely lucky to survive. Without treatment, he would have died. Roberto Carlos was less lucky. A miscreant shot the animal in the leg and the he died of septicemia after weeks of atrocious suffering.

When you feed an elephant, you want to be friendly, but you invariably provoke the premature death of the animal. So never feed elephants.

Jean-Philippe Puyravaud.