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Ritual Hunting
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Karnatakas Biggest Hunting festivities to begin in March.

INCERT Investigative report dated 20th February 2003.

Institute for Natural Resources Conservation, Education, Research and Training



The States of Kashmir and Karntaka are exempted form the Wildlife Protection Act!

The Wildlife Protection Act 1972, has been exempted in two states. They are the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the State of Karnataka. While the former state has been exempted from the purview of the Act by a legal provision contained their in, the latter state (Karnataka) has informally exempted itself from the purview of the Wildlife Protection Act, by showing chronic reluctance to utilize the provisions of the act to contain the escalating hunting and poaching activities in the state.

Our arguments are not baseless as you can see for yourself from the following information as also from the newspaper reports that are being splashed across the main pages. A few good examples are 1) Detection of the death of 77 elephants in the Nagarhole National Park in a span of 20 months. 2) Poaching of wild tigers, sloth bears, leopards at regular intervals. 3) The ongoing virulent ritual hunting programmes, 4) Detection and conficication by the Nandini layout police station officials of over 70,000 skins of snakes and monitor lizards in Bangalore. 5) Bangalore has become the epicenter of contraband wildlife trade in live animals and birds such as star tortoise and Alexandrine parakeets as reported in news papers and the elotronic media with photographs.6) large scale trade in Ivory and skins of tiger, leopard etc. detected and periodically reported in the media. 7) The PCCF Wildlife has confessed that not a single case under the Wildlife Protection Act has resulted in the successful conviction of any of the accused persons!

The Anagawadi Hunting festivities

The biggest ritual hunting festival is to begin soon in North Karnataka according to the project sponsered and funded by INCERT, the first of a series of hunting rituals will take place at Anagawadi Forest, about 18 kms from Bagalkot on Bagalkot - Belagi Road. Around 200 hunters from Anaganawadi, Tamrapura, and Harkeri villages participate in the hunting rituals. Last year the hunting festivities were held on 28th march 2002, and a good number of Blacknaped hares (Lepas nigricoiles) Patridges (Francolins pondicirianus) , Porcupines (Hystrix indicus), Monitor lizards (Veranus versicolor) and wild boars (Sos scorfa) were hunted and the animals were taken in a procession along the Bagalkot - Belagi Road. The two day festivities are usually begin on the Holi Hunnime day every year and this year the festivities will be held on 17th and 18th March 2003.

Hunters use Mudhol Hounds

An issue which is most distressing is that the hunters use trained Mudhol hunting hounds in all these hunting festivities. They have been specially trained to hunt wild animals and ground nesting birds and the owners proudly display and demonstrate the hunting skills of their respective pack of Mudhol hunting hounds to the delight of the onlookers who gather in large numbers to witness the hunting rituals. Yet another disturbing issue is that young boys are particularly seen hunting down wild animals such as hares and wild boars with wooden lathis and sticks and they can be seen chasing the harried animals across the scrub jungles with gay abandon.

The animals that are hunted thus are proudly displayed by the boys and occasionally by the women folk on long poles decorated with neem leaves and taken around the temple precincts, with much jubilation and ceaseless slogan shouting.

The Kelavadi Hunting Festivities:

The second biggest hunting festivities for the season is likely to be held on 24th and 25th March 2003, at Kelavadi Ranganatha Temple, in Bagalkot taluk. This temple is about 18 Kms from Bagalkot in the direction of Badami. By train it is about 14 kms form Badami and the Kelavadi Village is at a distance of 1 km from the railway station. The hunters belonging to a dozen villages participate in these festivities. Hunters from Shirur, Shirurtandya, Gadnakeri, and Keladaggi are well known for their hunting skills. They use a variety of armaments that include sickles, swords, lathis, batons, and rifles. Armed with these deadly weapons they chase hares, Jackals, wild boars, porcupines and monitor lizards, with the trained Mudhol hunting hounds. The frightened animals usually try to hide and skulk in thorny bushes and the hunters set loose their Mudol hunting hounds and urge them to attack the defenseless animals. The hunting dogs at once pounce on the hapless animals and grab their throats and suffocate them. Once the animal is dead the hounds are then ordered to release the animal and a small morsel is offered to the hound as a present, for having obeyed the masters orders and killed the prey.

The Badami Hunting festival

At the Banashankaramma Temple which is about 4.5 kms from the Badami Town, the biggest hunting festival of Karnataka is usually held on the Ugadi day. Last year the ritual huntings were conducted on 14th and 15th April 2002. More than 2000 hunters participated and an equal number of hunters are likely to converge at this temple this year also, when the festivities are likely to be held on 2nd April 2003. Hunters will arrive at the temple on 1st April 2003 itself, which happens to be the eve of the ritual hunting day. On the hunting day (2nd April 2003) they will spread-out to the Badami gudda and the Shankari Gudda Reserve forest areas and hunt-down practically every wild animal that they can locate and ambush, with the help of their mudhool hunting hounds. Last year around 400 hunters came to the Lakhammapura Railway Station with their booty, to board the trains for their return journey to their respective villages. They all refused to buy tickets and told the INCERT investigating team that they are allowed to travel without tickets on such festival days.

Another large group of hunters came in a grand procession to the Bagalkot town displaying their catch of the day to all the passersby. The procession went around the main roads of the Bagalkot town and traffic was stopped to facilitate easy passage of the procession along the pre-designated routes. Frequent heavy traffic jams were noticed by the INCERT investigating team members.

Enquiries revealed that the hunting festivities are in vogue for atleast two hundred years and the hunters have exterminated the entire Black buck (Antelope cervicapra) population of the region. They have all but eliminated the wildbirds of the region except some patridges here and there. Only small numbers of Blacknaped hares, porcupines and wild boars remain in the region and it is only a question of time before they are also extinguished form the region.

Japanese Loan comes handy to the hunters.

Interestingly, the forest guards who were present at the Shankari Gudda reserve forest were forced to turn a blind eye and watch helplessly as thousands of hunters came in large groups to participate in the hunting programme. The Karnataka Government has taken a loan of Rupees Six hundred crores from Japan for a popular project called "Eastern plains afforestation programme". Several lakhs of rupees are being spent for the afforestation of the Shankari Gudda Reserve forest, by planting thousands of saplings, year after year. For the hunters the Japanese loan has come handy in the form of make swift lathis, which are fabricated by chopping down the saplings planted by the forest department and these lathis are used to chase and hunt down the wild animals.

The Lokapura and Halkurki Hunting festivities near Belgaum

Two weeks after the hunting festivities at Badami, Hunters converge at Halkurki near Belgaum, to systematically decimate the wildlife of the nighbourhood forests. After a gap of another two weeks, they congregate again at Lokapura to hunt, trap, snare, noose, cuddle, suffocate and skin alive all the wild animals and birds that come across the hunters trail in the Lokapura area.

Withering Wildlife and the toothless Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2002

The Wildlife Act of 1972 has been strengthened from time to time by periodic amendments. Stiffer penalties and longer imprisonment clauses have been incorporated in the recently amended Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2002. But these amendments have practically no relevance to the state of Karnataka as can be seen from the pictures and the video footage obtained by the INCERT Investigation team comprising of Mr. V. Sudhindra, Mr. N.Narasimha Murthy and others. The whole project has been sponsered and funded by INCERT.

Medias clarion calls are falling on deaf ears

The media has been time and again reminding us that " If there is no united will to stop this evil of poaching, Indias skies and green belts will continue to be sullied by the blood of some of natures most wonderful creations." One such clarion call appeared in the Editorial , The Hindu, Friday, January 24, 2003. The full text of the editorial is reproduced hereunder :-



Murder most foul

ANIMALS AND BIRDS continue to be butchered despite a tough law to protect them. If the chiru is hunted down for its coat that goes into weaving shawls, the tiger is killed primarily for its organs, believed to have aphrodisiac value, and the tusker for its priceless ivory. For years, weavers denied that the chiru, found in the upper reaches of the Himalayas, had to be slaughtered for its fur to be collected. They argued that all they did was to pick up the hair which had fallen off the deer as it rubbed itself against the terrains thorny bushes. Eventually, this bluff was called. Despite a ban of sorts on the ivory trade, male elephants in India continue to disappear with alarming rapidity. The notorious smuggler, Veerappan, is said to have poached 2,000 of them in about three or four years, and, according to one estimate, the number of males is well below 1,000 today. There are about 20,000 females. Indeed, a precarious ratio. As far as the tiger goes, recent reports talk of at least a hundred of these cats being shot every year in Indias forests and sanctuaries, and their skins and organs being sold in cities as far apart as Dubai and New York.

Adding to this list of grave concern and, in some sense, futility is the migratory bird. Thousands of these winged creatures, which travel from the winter harshness of Siberia, Mongolia and the Arctic Ocean to Orissas warmer Chilka Lake, are now being poached. The meat of waterfowls, for instance, was reportedly served the other night at a well known Bhubaneswar club as part of a bureaucrats birthday bash. These birds are protected under the 1972 Wildlife Act. The meat of endangered species has always held a fascination: remember actor Salman Khans shooting of blackbuck in Rajasthan some years ago. In any case, bird flesh has all along been treated as a delicacy in some parts of India. Years ago, migratory birds on their way to the Calcutta Zoo were trapped with the help of hooks attached to kites, and the meat was sold for a fancy price.

If Indias wildlife is to be saved from possible extinction, a many layered approach is imperative. Although the law by itself is very stringent, the legal system provides, though unintentionally, an easy escape route for offenders. Hundreds of cases are pending at the trial stage, and in all the decades that the Act has been in force, there have been very few convictions. Obviously so. Most of the poachers are rich and powerful with enviable political connections, which see them through the most heinous of misdeeds. Actors, industrialists, wealthy farmers, Government officers and political functionaries seem to feel little regret or remorse in destroying a beautiful creature for food or sport or money. And while such "tamasha" goes on with poachers sporting night vision glasses, wielding state-of-the-art weapons and racing across the jungles in fancy vehicles fitted with powerful spotlights guards cut a sorry figure. Many still have just "lathis", and are so few in number that they are probably more frightened than the cornered animals and birds themselves. These men need to be economically uplifted if they are not to feel intimidated, if they are not to fall prey to bribery and corruption. The force must be strengthened considerably, and one wonders what actually happened at the National Police Academy in Hyderabad that was to have conducted a training programme to help gather wildlife intelligence and check crime. However, in the final analysis, the war has to be fought by advocates, who must pledge not to plead for one they know is guilty, as much as it has to be by the rest of the community, celebrities and politicians included. If there is no united will to stop this evil of poaching, Indias skies and green belts will continue to be sullied by the blood of some of natures most wonderful creations.

Our Constitution has given us many rights, liberties and freedoms. It has also given us certain duties, responsibilities and obligations. We would like to stress one of the fundamental duties of every citizen under Article 51 A(g) of our Constitution, which emphasizes that "It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for all living creatures".

Please therfore come to the rescue of these animals by discharging your fundamental duty to protect them. As a first step please write to the various authorities expressing your anguish and implore them to take action as per the provisions of the law and stop this needless madness.

1) Shri. S.M. Krishna
Chief Minister
Government of Karnataka, Vidhana Soudha
Bangalore - 560001
cm@kar.nic.in

2) Shri T. R. Baalu, Union Cabinet Minister (Environment & Forests),
Government
of India - (mef@envfor.delhi.nic.in, mef@menf.delhi.nic.in)

3) Addl., Inspector General of Forests, Ministry of Environment and Forests,
Government of India, Paryavaran Bhavan, CGO Complex, Lodhi Estate,
New Delhi 110 003

4) Conservator of Forests (Central), Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Regional Office (South Zone) Kendriya Sadan, IV th Floor, Environment and Forests Wings, 17th Main Road, II Block, Koramangala, Bangalore 560 034

5) The Secretary to the Government, Forest, Environment and Ecology Dept,
Government of Karnataka, Multistoried Buildings, Bangalore 560 001.
E-mail <Psecfee@secretariat2.kar.nic.in>

6) The Principle Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), 2nd Floor, Aranya Bhavan,
18th cross, Malleswaram, Bangalore 560003.
E-mail <pccfwl@vsnl.com>

7).Shri. P. V. Jayakrishnan, IAS, Secretary, Ministry of Environment &
Forests,
Government of India - (secy@menf.delhi.nic.in)

8) Shri. S. Rajagopalan, Jt. Secretary (IA), Ministry of Environment and
Forests,
Government of India (raja-g@nic.in)


9) Shri. Gokul Ram, IAS, Principal Secretary, Dept. of Ecology, Environment
and

Forests, Government of Karnataka (sececoenv@kar.nic.in)

Multi storied Buildings, Vidhana Veedhi, Bangalore 560 002

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